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Value of a Vote


Value of vote:

Type Spending Voters Value

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Calculating the spending per voter required historical and regional data on campaign spending from the FEC. For a given race, we summed together all spending from all candidate’s campaigns (disbursements). Additionally, we calculated all outsider spending (independent expenditures). Together, these sums represent the total spending in that election.

Historical voting numbers were collected with little trouble. The exception being Washington DC, where we had to manually copy numbers.

After spending data was collected and cleaned up, each house, district, and presidential race had their sum spending total divided by the number of votes cast in that race. This represents the value of a vote for that specific race. Then the total of those values summed up to generate the total spending per voter


Generally, there is more spending per voter in swing Florida above all places. However, this graphic does not reflect how presidential ad dollars tend to favor swing states. The FCC used to have accessible data on this, via their now defunct Electioneering Communications Database, as per their requirement to enforce Section 315 of the Communications Act, 47 USC § 315. But some point after May 2020, Ajit Pait, the FCC chairman, took down the site. You can still see the web archive here, or the FCC directing you to their own broken link here. Now the only data the FCC provides is in the form of tens of thousands of PDFs of FCC filings. Naturally, this data is not easily scrape-able, so for now, we assume presidential spending is equally distributed among all voters.

This illustration does not include local elections or state-wide offices. Since individual state authorities administer local elections, they are very inconsistent in how they present their data.

We chose not to include any elections before 2004, since outsider spending data is wildly inaccurate prior to the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act of 2002.

Erik van Merrienboer René Verhulst Republic of Ireland United States of America United Kingdom profession
And then I said I was in no way affiliated with that PAC


While I compiled the data, Ashwin Kumar wrote the JavaScript to bring it to life.

All spending data was provided by the FEC. Independent expenditures were calculated from their pas2 dataset.

A special thank you to, which was indispensable in sorting out glitches in the FEC data.

Congressional district shapefiles were provided the the Census Bureau, with some tweaks by me.

Jeffrey B. Lewis, Brandon DeVine, Lincoln Pitcher, and Kenneth C. Martis. (2013) Digital Boundary Definitions of United States Congressional Districts, 1789-2012. [Data file and code book]. Retrieved from on Sept. 18th, 2020.

Voting data was provided by MIT’s election lab. Since MIT’s dataset does not include voting totals for DC’s non-voting representative, I manually copied numbers from DC’s Board of Elections. Datasets below:

If you like this, check out my other data visualizations.