Lori, my wife, asked if there was any way to visualize the signatures she’s been collecting for the Senator Scott Fitzgerald’s recall. She was interested in both inspiring volunteers and in analyzing the distribution of signers. After finding a post about QGIS‘s Time Manager, this was relatively easy to pull off:

Short version of procedure

  1. Collect addresses in spreadsheet (LibreOffice).
  2. Modify date of signature to conform with Time Manager’s format and add random offset (so all signatures on the same day don’t appear at exactly the same time).
  3. Geocode using GPSVisualizer’s batch geocoder (built on Yahoo’s geocoder).
  4. Import delimited text (*.csv) file into QGIS. Export layer as shapefile.
  5. Create three versions as suggested by underdark and set Time Manager settings.
  6. Export sequence to series of images.
  7. Use AviSynth and VirtualDub to create video.

(Full disclosure — my wife is currently leading the recall campaign against Senator Fitzgerald; see Recall Fitz)

Several weeks ago I heard Mike McCabe from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) talk about the growing power of money in our state politics and, in his words, its equivalence to modern-day bribery. My attention had mostly been on the role of Citizens United in our national politics and not the details of state politics. I also discovered, in subsequent searching, that there’s a treasure trove of data the WDC’s campaign finance database. Here’s an initial look at my state senator’s, Scott Fitzgerald, individual contributions for the last election cycle (starting from Nov 5, 2009):

Click to view interactive map
Click here for the full interactive map.

What is really interesting is how little of his money came from his own district. Approximately 86% of his contributions were from outside the 13th — only 14% came from within his own district. He received more money (15% of the total) from outside the state. Look over those out-of-state donors, I ran across the name “W. Preston Baldwin” who shows up as the chair on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board.

Who, then, is he accountable to?

Note: only free and publicly available data and software (QGIS and LibreOffice) was used to generate this map on my personal computer.