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UK local elections data explorer
Categories: Ideas, Outline

One of the surprising things one can learn from The Electoral Commission’s website is that they don’t have official responsibility for recording local election results. In fact, though there is all sorts of interesting factoids to be mined from that data, it seems there is no public body responsible for making it available. There are two alternative sources offered to the reader, neither of which cut the mustard.

The first is various results for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland from 2001, though not every country has data recorded for every year, and where it is recorded, it is only down to council level, not ward. Here for example is English council election results for 2013. A much more detailed dataset can be obtained from a project at Plymouth university, though unfortunately they appeared to have stopped collating after 2009, and years prior to 2000 do not appear to be readily available (though one can email to find out). The data isn’t free either: it’s £50 for the 2009 edition, and £85 for each previous year!

What’d rectify this sorry state of affairs is a website that makes all this data publicly, freely and anonymously available, via feeds (XML, JSON) and downloads (SQLite, CSV). It’d contain an explorer so people could specify what wards/councils/regions/countries/parties they’re interested in, a data range, and they click a button to get a nice graph. For bonus points, it should offer a way for councils to upload results, present them on a page, and render them to PDF.

Each record should note where the data came from, so it can be verified, and snapshots taken monthly, so corrections can be examined. Where voting boundaries have changed, this should result in the old area being set to defunct, and a new area being added, so that relationships between legacy tables still make sense. Names and parties of prospective councillors, names of returning officers, and the timestamp of each announcement would all be welcome.

The Local Government Boundary Commission offers a database of orders affecting the voting of local authorities, which might be useful. Also, this Ordance Survey site seems to contain a dataset of ward-level names and boundary coordinates, since these can be plotted on a map. Lastly this site offers a great deal of links, including the current political composition of local councils.

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