Reuters U.S. Elections Service
The Reuters U.S. Elections Service was an undertaking to collect and deliver live election results as they became available from each of the over 4000 jurisdictions across the nation that report votes on election night. We partnered with Ipsos to supply up-to-the minute vote count and precincts reporting data to media and other organizations who reported them on TV and online, and in print the next day.
Official results aren't available until days or weeks after an election. Media outlets report unofficial results from the Associated Press and Reuters. Until 2014 the AP was the only source of comprehensive data. For well over a century the effort to provide an alternative was so huge no one did. We were the first to break the AP's monopoly. I was the Technical Product Manager of the team that built the Reuters solution.
Field Agents collected results from over 3000 jurisdictions using a mobile app. A call center provided backup. The system handled the variety of election laws from State to State. A robust and convenient API delivered the results. We built a data analysis tool for editors to call races. And maps and insights into the data to catch and resolve errors. We had to be correct.
As Product Owner of the Technology Platform working within an Agile development framework, I wrote the user stories, specified the requirements, set the priorities, owned the product in our daily standups, defined the API, conceived the data analysis applications, created their wireframes, designed their user experience, supervised the technology vendors, served as the Technical Account Manager and Sales Engineer, wrote the user documentation, guided the client integrations, assured customer satisfaction, and supplied the voice of the customer in our Scrums.
Mobile Application for Field Agent Data Entry
An iOS and Android mobile application equipped over 2000 field agents stationed at vote reporting jurisdictions nationwide with a quick and convenient means to update vote count and precincts reporting data as soon as it became available. Agents entered data on phone or tablet devices that transmitted it wirelessly, eliminating the need for a call. The app provided each agent a ballot specific to the contests, candidates, poll close time, and precincts applicable to his or her assigned jurisdiction. Client-side validation and back end business logic minimized data entry error. An administriative interface enabled select users to manage the system.
Web Application for Call Center Data Entry
A web application powered backup operators to enter data when circumstances required field agents or election officials to send it via phone, email, or fax. As with the mobile app, ballots specific to each of the several thousand vote-reporting jurisdictions streamlined data entry. Client-side validation and back end business logic minimized error. Administrators accessed an interface to manage the system.
Data Management, Validation, and Transport Applications
A robust primarily back end system of data management and transport applications collected and validated data received from agents, managed their swift delivery from Ipsos to Reuters, supplied views into their current state and transmissions, flagged anomalies for investigation, enabled the suppression of erroneous data, and provided tools for disaster recovery. The data model and business logic accommodated the innumerable possible idiosyncrasies of elections as they vary from State to State.
Reuters U.S. Elections Service API
A web-scale RESTful API delivered live vote count, precincts reporting, and called winner data, as well as static election contest, candidate, and jurisdiction information. Speed, reliability, and ease of use were top priorities. Output was available in JSON and JSONP format, and in a choice of data structures to suit various needs. Results were retrievable in full, as the subset updated since their last retrieval, or limited to those matching specified criteria (e.g., one or some combination of states, offices, contests, or candidates). Results were available summed or broken down per each of their contributing jurisdictions. Data was available within seconds of their entry by agents in the field. Customers heralded our API as dramatically better technology than the competition's.
Data Analysis and Race Calling Application for Reuters Editorial
A web application provided an expert team of Reuters editors and statisticians tools for analyzing vote count and precincts reporting data to assess likely outcomes and confidently call winners in key races. Map-based data visualizations and tabular breakdowns presented the latest results for each contest and each contributing reporting jurisdiction. A variety of insights and map dimensions were available to apply. Editors were able to call winners and deliver their determinations via the Reuters U.S. Elections Service API.
Data Visualization and Error Identification Application for Reuters QC
A web application provided the Reuters U.S. Elections Quality Control team tools to inspect the data and identify potential errors. It presented map-based and tabular representations of current data similar to those we built for Reuters Editorial, with insights and map dimensions beyond those needed by the editors, and the ability to examine each individual batch from an agent that contributed to a result. It provided no ability to in any way affect the data. We addressed issues upstream within the data management application.
Praise and Thanks
The Reuters U.S. Elections Service was roundly celebrated as an outstanding technical success.
You can read Reuters Managing Editor Paul Ingrassia's praise for our effort at The Baron.
I was incredibly lucky to work with such a talented and dependable team.
Thanks also to Kolin Pope, whose fantastic video commissioned to explain the Reuters U.S. Elections Service served as the basis for most of the images on this page. You can watch it here: