Sonora River: One year later
It’s been more than a year since the Buenavista del Cobre copper mine, owned by mining conglomerate Grupo México, spilled 11 million gallons of toxic chemicals into the Bacanuchi and Sonora Rivers. The mine is in Cananea, a city in northern Sonora, which is also the headwaters for Arizona’s San Pedro River. The mine and authorities from the Mexican government claim the water is now clean, but people with illnesses related to heavy metals contamination continue to emerge.
AZCIR and ABC15 spent three months investigating how Arizona regulates hazardous chemical storage facilities and whether the necessary plans are in place to protect residents and businesses from a disaster like the one that killed 15 people in West, Texas in 2013. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board released the initial findings form its investigation into the explosion at West Chemical and Fertilizer company and found sweeping gaps in the regulatory oversight of ammonium nitrate. AZCIR and ABC15 reporters found similar shortfalls in Arizona.
The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting collected county-level rejected ballot data from federal elections in 2008, 2010 and 2012, then analyzed the results to provide readers with a clearer understanding of what rejected ballots can say about Arizona’s election system. AZCIR found that tens of thousands of ballots cast in Arizona’s 2012 election were rejected by elections officials, indicating continued communication and voter education problems in the state. Nearly 46,000 of the more than 2.3 million ballots cast in Arizona’s 2012 election – or about 2 percent – were rejected.
Inside our analysis of Arizona’s rejected ballots
Improved election data would mean a better informed electorate
|County||Rejected total 2008||Rejected total 2012||Net change||Percent ballots 2008||Percent ballots 2012||Net change||Percent of provisional ballots 2008||Percent of provisional ballots 2012||Net change||Percent of absentee/early ballots 2008||Percent of absentee/early ballots 2012||Net change|
Mapping the Vote:
The Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting collaborated with the Arizona Capitol Times on analyzing more than 2.3 million votes cast from the Nov. 6 General Election. The analysis included precinct-level election breakdowns of votes cast and was combined with demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The result was nearly a dozen stories about competitive races across Arizona that was combined with interactive maps to allow readers to explore the results.
Colorado City shows bizarre voting trend
Sales tax hike was squashed by enthusiastic opposition among GOP
CD1 results reflect Kirkpatrick’s appeal, Paton’s weakness among Romney voters
Barber held seat by winning competitive precincts, making up ground in GOP areas
Analysis reveals Sinema’s secrets to success in CD9
Failed top-two primary measure had most support among independent voters
Vote analysis shows why Flake-Carmona race was so close
Art of the single shot: How less can mean more when voters get to choose two
Analysis shows Lewis fell short in appealing to Hispanics
The Background Machine:
AZCIR was one of eight newsrooms awarded a data project grant from IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors) and Google Ideas. The grants will support data-driven investigations by providing journalists with access to data, new tools and necessary training. AZCIR will be building a public web application to provide background checks for political candidates. We call it, “The Background Machine.”
The Background Machine is an open-source, web-based application that uses crowd-funding and -tips to conduct background checks on public officials. This front-facing technology will be driven by donations that will pay experienced reporters to do the work. The application will list political profiles in a queue-based web page, much like the movie queue in Netflix. Selecting a candidate takes a user to a profile page with categories to include education, employment and financial holdings, among others. Data items for each category will be collected from public documents, resumes, news stories, opposition claims and statements by the politicians. The list order is determined by how much money has been donated to each candidate’s background check. Once a certain funding level is reached, that candidate is locked into place and the check begins. The result is a public-facing, searchable database of political candidates and officeholders that is vetted by professional journalists.