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Covering the Midterms With Election DataBot

It’s not too early to think about reporting on the midterm elections. Get a head start using our free, near-real-time database.

Supporters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are silhouetted at a rally on March 2, 2016, in New York City. (Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

The midterm elections are less than a year away, and with the balance of power of both houses of Congress at stake, they seem likely to be closely fought. To help local journalists use election data to keep a close eye on candidates and races, we’re today announcing an update to our Election DataBot app.

A partnership with the Google News Lab, Election DataBot helps reporters, researchers and citizens keep track of campaign activity. The update adds a host of new information from ProPublica’s political data collection that will help users understand races in even more detail, and provide an even broader picture to their readers. DataBot users can sign up for email alerts for a particular candidate, committee or race, using a Google account.

The core feature of Election DataBot remains its firehose of activity about federal candidates and committees, including campaign finance filings, congressional votes and Google Trends data. To those we’ve added congressional press releases from our Represent news application, news stories about incumbents from Google News, campaign videos from YouTube and deleted tweets from Politwoops.

Right now, DataBot’s most complete set of information is about congressional incumbents running for re-election. The press releases and news stories are about those lawmakers, while campaign videos and deleted tweets cover challengers and open seat candidates, too.

That means an even richer stream of data about high-profile contests such as the Nevada Senate race or the special Senate election in Alabama on Dec. 12. Election DataBot has a page for each race showing the most recent activity, meaning that reporters quickly can track super PACs spending money to support or oppose a candidate and delve more deeply into Roy Moore’s or Doug Jones’ pages or click on an item to see the FEC filing for each expenditure. Or you can search for a committee such as the Proven Conservative PAC, which backs Moore, and sign up for an alert each time Election DataBot gets updated information about its activities.

Election DataBot's Firehose feed for the Alabama Senate race

We’ve also beefed up campaign finance filings from Senate candidates, which are filed on paper, thanks to the Federal Election Commission’s API. We’ve also updated candidate information for 2018 Senate and House races, and will be adding Twitter and YouTube accounts for candidates as they appear. This far in advance, the field in many contests is still far from clear. The candidate filing deadline in many states is still months away. But with congressional candidates raising more than $386 million in the first six months of 2017, it is not too early to be keeping an eye on key races.

In the meantime, Election DataBot will get new information throughout each day, updating FEC filings every 15 minutes and other information several times a day. Because we have more information coming in, we’ve tightened up the main feed, called the Firehose, on the homepage, to cover activity from the past three days.

Existing users of the DataBot will notice that we’ve removed a few items, including election forecasts from and recent polls. Because the Pollster API we used in the past only contains polls on presidential approval and generic House of Representatives election questions, race-specific polls no longer appear. We are looking for data sources that will let us return polling data to Election DataBot.

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