Friday, October 22, 2010

Too Much Data on the State Board of Elections Website

If you've been following the campaign disclosure reports this week, you might have noticed some odd glitches in the reporting of numbers by the State Board of Elections. Some candidates were showing astronomical fundraising totals -- far higher than one would expect.

The problems appear to have been with the way the State Board's computers handled amended reports. Most candidates filed Pre-Election reports by the Monday deadline. A few then filed amended reports. One filed three amended reports on Wednesday. The State Board's computers were struggling with the additional reports, resulting in glitches and miscalculations..

The problem with the State Board website is that it was searching both the original filing and the amended filing when listing contributions to that candidate. Usually, the site ignores original reports once an amended report is filed. But not so with these pre-election filings. Donations between July 1 and October 3 were being counted multiple times.

Some candidates had similar issues with A1 reports. If the candidate filed the same donation on more than one A1 report, or if they filed contributions on both the pre-election report and on an A1, the SBE search engine was returning those donations multiple times.

In all, several dozen candidates were showing vastly higher totals than they should have. The State Board worked to fix the problem, and they assure us they think it's under control. We'll be careful with the numbers going forward, and will let them know whenever we see more errors. If you see anything odd, please do the same.

In other news from the Pre Election reports, we were struck that two candidates reported non-itemized in-kind donations of exactly $50.54 Two state rep., Sandy Cole and Elaine Nekritz, filed Pre-Election reports showing non-itemized in-kinds of $50.54. What could one give a campaign that costs $50.54? We have no idea. And maybe they got different goods or services that happened to be at that price-point. But when looking over so many reports, few things stick in the mind like unusual numbers. Maybe there's just too much data.

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