November 08, 2004
Election Coverage, GIS Style
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -


Welcome to GISWeekly! Whatever your bent in this 2004 Presidential Election, the votes are now cast and we have a new President-Elect. Whether you agree with the tally or not, we can all agree that the role of GIS and geospatial data in the 2004 Election has been greater than ever, with geospatial industry vendor ESRI pitching in with maps showing up-to-the-minute county-level results, first maps shown in 3D and detailed demographics on CBS News. This election drew more voters than ever before - one news report cited that 15 million more voters showed up at the polls for this year's election - more than had appeared at the polls in any one presidential election in decades. Was
it due in part to Televigation's TeleNav GPS service that was available to direct drivers to unfamiliar polling places this election year? Certainly MapInfo's detailed cultural, demographic and political profile of the voters in the Swing States for pre-election forecasting may have made the election more interesting to track for specialists and voters. Read about it in this week's Industry News.


GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.


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Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor




Industry News


Election Coverage, GIS Style

By Susan Smith


Whatever your bent in this 2004 Presidential Election, the votes are now cast and we have a new President-Elect. Whether you agree with the tally or not, we can all agree that the role of GIS and geospatial data in the 2004 Election has been greater than ever, with geospatial industry vendor ESRI pitching in with maps showing up-to-the-minute county-level results, first maps shown in 3D and detailed demographics on CBS News. This election drew more voters than ever before - one news report cited that 15 million more voters showed up at the polls for this year's election - more than had appeared at the polls in any one presidential election in decades. Was it due in part to Televigation's
TeleNav GPS service that was available to direct drivers to unfamiliar polling places this election year? Certainly MapInfo's detailed cultural, demographic and political profile of the voters in the Swing States for pre-election forecasting may have made the election more interesting to track for specialists and voters.


John Roberts in the CBS News Election Data Center
Kris Goodfellow, Media Industry Manager for ESRI, spoke about the GIS used by CBS News to cover the presidential election, which provided data-rich displays that were featured in analysis from the CBS News Election Data Center and the Presidential Analysis Desk. “We created over 30 different textual maps, some of them demographic and some of them data driven-only maps, focusing on where the campaign spent money on advertising, for example. In the early part of the night before the polls had closed they would be able to talk about some of the factors that might be influencing the race. Then those maps were integrated into a browser called an iBrowser from a company called Innotive
which made
the maps zoomable and allowed you to make some really cool transitions between national and regional, then regional and state. So we did that all before. On election night we updated a map every five minutes using ArcGlobe which showed the results on a county by county basis. And we created an animation out of that so you could see the extruded polygon showing the difference in who was winning or losing around the country as the night progressed. The third thing we did was the updating of the national or state election maps for each hit CBS needed, usually every ten minutes, and usually it ran two or three times an hour.”


Election maps were integrated into a browser called iBrowser from Innotive, that allowed zooming and transitions between national and state maps.
“We were able to do community updates throughout the night,” said Goodfellow. “We used ArcEngine application and then the Globe controls for ArcEngine to do the 3D stuff as well.”


ESRI did election coverage for the Associated Press in the 2000 Election. There was no comparison, according to Goodfellow, between the 2000 election and the 2004 Election. “We had worked with the Associated Press in the 2000 Election using MapShop and in that case we took a live feed of the data from the AP and fed it into our servers, then we rendered it, and pushed it out using ArcIMS.


“This (CBS) needed to be much more automated because of manpower constraints and turnaround time and we knew they had a high level of graphics demand that had to be instantly met. Whereas the AP had about a dozen deadlines, CBS had deadlines every five minutes. So we used ArcGIS for that reason and everything was scripted so that the map was the same every single time; there was no variation. Whereas the AP had some legal room to be able to push out things and then tweak them in Illustrator before they moved.”


CBS had specific requirements when they approached ESRI about working with them on the election. “CBS uses proprietary graphics software and draws all their graphics for mapmaking and for animation. They weren't able to do demographics, 3D, or much county level reporting because of the limitations of that software and its heavy graphics demands,” explained Goodfellow. “When they came to us what they wanted was 3D quick turnaround time and the county level stuff so that's where we focused our efforts.”


Clearly, the CBS News job required a completely different architecture and system than the Associated Press effort. The 2000 Election turned out to be a very difficult beta test for a brand new product - Map Shop. In contrast, CBS News employed a very customized approach, working very closely with ESRI for the past year, using off the shelf technology this time: ArcGIS, 3D Analyst, ArcEngine, ArcGlobe, and Spatial Analyst and ArcScene.


From the standpoint of CBS News, Dan Dubno, Technologist and Producer of CBS News, said the project was a huge success. “It was the first coherent use of GIS in network broadcasting, especially for an election. It was an astonishing triumph.” Dubno has worked on the past seven elections in television. “We've been working with ESRI to do something like this for quite a long time. We're planning to use it for other special event projects -almost every story has a geographic component.”


2004 U.S. Presidential Election

Results by County

George W. Bush—Republican (red)

John L. Kerry—Democrat (blue)
Dubno said that CBS still hasn't come up with a way to make GIS integrated and seamless in their daily work but looks forward to that happening. “The important thing is the people here got an education about geographic data in the routine setting, and I'm looking forward to more of that happening.


“CBS News was delighted to work with ESRI on this very exciting and unique project and ESRI put their all into the process of translating demographic data into usable and understandable material that we could share with our viewers. GIS gave context to the content and it was a powerful way for people to learn about many different stories, not only where the voters were, but what characterized the voters. All of that was shown by GIS. We even showed on a very clear geographic basis precisely where the election adds were seen and that was only possible through the creative use of GIS.”


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-- Susan Smith, GISCafe.com Managing Editor.


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