Our recent projects

Sonora River: One year later

BlancaRuiz-01It’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.

Hazardous Materials:


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.

Rejected Ballots:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 3.15.59 PM

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.

CountyRejected total 2008Rejected total 2012Net changePercent ballots 2008Percent ballots 2012Net changePercent of provisional ballots 2008Percent of provisional ballots 2012Net changePercent of absentee/early ballots 2008Percent of absentee/early ballots 2012Net change
La Paz15375-782.71.29-1.41289-193.821.24-2.58
Santa Cruz275203-722.031.44-0.592318-52.680.48-2.2

Mapping the Vote:

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.

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.