Written by Kate Cummings and Rim Othman

On May 22nd, the observation network Mourakiboun launched Tunisia Election Data, an initiative to collect, open, visualize, and analyze election-related data on an ongoing basis. The project, supported by Democracy International (DI), aims to provide election stakeholders with comprehensive information about the electoral process that enables them to make informed decisions that lead to better outcomes for Tunisia’s upcoming elections.

More than 70 people from the media, civil society organizations and election observation missions attended Mourakiboun’s press conference for the launch, including the President of the Independent Higher Authority for Elections (ISIE), Dr. Chafik Sarsar. In his remarks, Dr. Sarsar recognized Mourakiboun’s work as “serious, intelligent and helpful”, noting that the platform’s visualizations will be invaluable resources for the ISIE throughout the electoral process.

The platform currently hosts 12 visualizations based on 2011 elections data with more to come for the 2014 elections, as well as a charts section that allows the user to select different 2011 elections results to compare with one another or with socio-economic data such as illiteracy and unemployment rates. All data visualized on the platform may be downloaded directly from the site for any user to repurpose, and the tools used to create the platform are open source.

During and after the 2014 electoral process, as new datasets become available they will be visualized on the election data browser to illustrate longitudinal changes and trends. One of the visualizations that will soon be added to the platform is Tunisia’s first comprehensive polling center map, another Mourakiboun and DI collaboration highlighted during the launch. Using a volunteer network spread across Tunisia, Mourakiboun is mapping all 4,800+ centers using tablets and offline mapping applications (see more about this project here); more than 80 percent of the centers have now been geolocated, and Mourakiboun plans to complete the map by May 30, when it will be given to the Ministry of Education (nearly all of the polling centers are schools) and the ISIE for their election preparations, and soon after publicly available on the platform.

More about the platform

Mourakiboun’s General Coordinator, Rafik Halouani, summarized the Tunisia Election Data platform as “an interactive, technological means to assist voters…and contribute to the success of the elections from a logistical and organizational point of view.” Mourakiboun aims to make the platform an integral tool for election stakeholders by:

  1. Creating a centralized hub of election-related data, maps, and analysis that facilitate data-driven decision-making to improve the electoral process;
  2. Presenting information in a highly accessible way so that stakeholders can measure progress and identify trends from one election cycle to the next; and
  3. Providing a meaningful lens through which electoral developments or election observation findings can be contextualized and understood.

Tunisia Election Data builds on a project initiated by the OpenGovTN community following the 2011 NCA elections. OpenGovTN volunteers wanted to “liberate” data that was published in protected formats on the website of the Instance Superieure Independante pour les Elections (ISIE); by April 2012, volunteers had “scraped” and “liberated” a deep reservoir of election data at multiple levels – district, delegation, polling center, and polling station – and archived the data online for public use.

The 2011 election data opened by OpenGovTN serves the cornerstone of Tunisia Election Data, and with Development Seed‘s technical support the initial platform was created. The election data browser is essentially comprised of two main components: a landing page that showcases the mapping visualizations on the site, and content pages with mapping visualizations or charts & corresponding analysis. Non-election but contextually useful datasets, such as socio-economic census data, has been added to the charts section for interactive comparison with election results.

All maps on Tunisia Election Data have been rendered using open-source software. All raw datasets displayed in the browser can be accessed via the online repository or directly downloaded from the website. Users are encouraged to repurpose the data, and share their own election-related data with the platform. When data is received and its accuracy verified, the Mourakiboun team will then create a visualization that appears on the browser with attribution to the contributing organization and the data will be available for public use.