| A number of people who've expressed interest in helping gather election data so that we can compile presidential results by CD have asked for a more detailed guide. So here's what I suggest:
1) Open up this spreadsheet.
2) Find a county where the three right-hand columns (F, G & H) are all blank. (If there's information in any of those, it means someone has already requested data from that county, or at least investigated it.)
3) Call the phone number listed in column D. (If there's no phone number, please look it up and paste it into column D.) When I call, this is what I like to say:
Hi. I'm a researcher looking for detailed election results from the 2008 election. Whom might I speak with about this?
Once I have the right person, this is the request I make:
I'm interested in precinct-level results for the Presidential and Congressional races in your county for the 2008 election. Are you able to send that to me?
That's really you need to ask for - this request is very basic and should be readily understood. If you encounter any confusion, report back here in comments and we'll try to figure out what the misunderstanding is.
4) At this point, the response you might get will vary. Some election officials will email you on the spot, some will only mail you hardcopy versions, and some might even insist on mailing you a CD. Still others might ask you to fill out a particular request form, or fax them a signed letter, or file a Freedom of Information request.
Just ask what you need to do and you should be given straightforward instructions. If you follow these, you should get the data you're looking for without a problem. Note: If the county you talk to can only send hardcopies but you don't have access to a scanner, let us know in comments.
5) Side note: Some counties - and this really cheeses me off, but there's not much we can do - may require a payment for the data. If that happens, I recommend you do NOT pay for the data. Rather, find out how much the data would cost. Then open up this spreadsheet again and type your username into column F and the cost into column G. We'll look into making purchases later.
6) Once you get the data, please upload your files to Scribd. (You'll need to create an account there first.) Then, post the URL(s) in column H. That way we'll know we have the data, and we'll know where to find it.
That's really all there is to it. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask in comments.