Rants & Ramblings

random commentary about culture, media, politics, technology and whatnot.


NPR GOP Delegate Tracker

Looking at GOP delegate trackers from different news organizations, you might notice that they often have different numbers. There are a lot of factors to consider, including whether to factor in projections / estimates, how to interpret state / party rules, or whether to keep tabs on how independent, unpledged RNC members are going to vote (and whether they change their votes later). There’s no one canonical delegate list to refer to.

This week, NPR launched its own delegate tracker. It’s likely among the most conservative out there in terms of delegate allotment (right now we have MItt Romney at 73 delegates, while the New York Times has him at 93, and the AP at 112), but the goal is to tally up only those delegates that have been officially or unambiguously apportioned — no estimates or projections based on what’s “likely” to happen, no unpledged delegates whose vote could change at any time.

NPR Delegate Tracker

Design-wise, it takes some inspiration from what the Washington Post, New York Times and AP have been doing.

Tech-wise, it’s a bit of an experiment, as it uses Google Spreadsheets as an admin / backend for the page. I went this route for a few reasons:

  • The reporter, S.V. Date, will want to update this page on a regular basis. That means either he’ll have to update the page, or he’ll have to e-mail someone to make those changes for him.
  • The reporter is at ease with Microsoft Excel, so Google Spreadsheets should be somewhat familiar (certainly, more familiar to work with than raw HTML code).
  • Google Spreadsheets has an API, which can be used to fetch the contents of a spreadsheet in JSON format.

I first clued into this idea via Michelle Minkoff, who blogged a while back about using Google Spreadsheets for a project at the Los Angeles Times. Taking inspiration from that, this summer I made a Google Spreadsheet-based prototype of a Flash/XML-based project I’d done earlier in the year. This delegates project seemed like a good opportunity to test it out with something real. We’ll see how it goes.

The spreadsheet itself is pretty simple, with columns for dates, states, candidates and footnotes, and rows for each primary / caucus (as well as a row with totals). It’s set up to republish every time someone makes a change to the spreadsheet. (Only a few people have editing rights.) On my HTML page, I call the Google Spreadsheets API for that spreadsheet in JSON format. That data is then loaded into a series of JavaScript functions that go through the JSON and, with a little jQuery, construct the data table / bar chart.

Explore The Project »