Harvesting the Florida Early Voting Files: A Users Guide

Charles Stewart has been updating the Florida early voting returns on a daily basis, so I’m not going to reproduce his work here.  Readers will have to be satisfied with a lame bar chart.

Getting to the Florida files proves to be a lot more complicated than North Carolina.  Florida is probably the second-easiest state to work with, so that tells you how difficult, opaque, and at times expensive it can be to work with voter files.  I look forward to a day where states agree upon common data formats or at least to make voter files more readily accessible.

The first challenge in Florida is that 67 separate early voting files need to be “harvested” from the Elections website.  This is more complicated than it might appear at first blush, but web harvesting is an important skill for anyone who works with data from the web.

The attached PowerPoint illustrates the steps, including some power user Unix commands to quickly manipulate the files using the terminal window.  These steps can be performed using a graphic user interface in Windows or on a Mac, but, like web harvesting, anyone who manipulates data files of this size and number needs to learn (or relearn) the command line.

Processing the files in Stata turns out to be relatively simple–the files are all formatted the same way.  Click here for the do file.