Fun With Voter Data
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Voter data is one of your assets if you are getting ready to do Get out the Vote (GOTV) work. EveryLibrary consults on obtaining and analyzing voter data in nearly every campaign we assist with. Voter data is voting records by address for your local area. At a minimum it includes Name, address, phone numbers, if someone voted in previous elections, and sometimes how they voted in a previous election.
Voter data is used across all types of political campaigns to build contact, door to door canvassing, and phone banking lists. A lot of people are intimidated by this data and the tools for analyzing and scoring it, but it really doesn't take too much time. A few hours over a couple days can usually get you all the way to a precinct map and lists for door-to-door canvassing.
If you work in a library and are planning GOTV work you should be doing this on your own time or have other members of your ballot committee help you. Voter data is not enough fun to put your job in jeopardy! Like your communities, no two voter files are exactly the same. We can help you with a nitty gritty step by step. It is part of what we do. All of our work is pro-bono. If you have an upcoming election and need help let us know.
#1 Get the Data
Visit or contact your local Clerk of Elections in your County. If you don’t have one or aren’t sure who to contact, your Secretary of State’s Office or the State Library should be able to help you track down who you need to ask. If you are looking at forming a new district that covers multiple precincts get a voter file that covers “all area” elections. You want the voter data to be reflective of all voters that can vote on your measure. Ask for a “voter file” as far back as they have and include special elections. Ideally you want to look at the past 8 elections plus special elections.
Pro-tip: If you are looking for who to contact on Google you may notice that lots of companies can sell you this information, but with a little work you should be able to find it for no cost.
#2 Score the Data
For this you will need to get comfortable with Excel or similar spreadsheet program. Ask for help if you know someone with those skills. You will want to sort the data to show you voters in the following categories. This may require multiple sorts to see who falls where:
A. Have voted in:
AA. all 8 of the last 8 “all area” elections
AB. in 6 of the last 8 “all area” elections
AC. in 4 of the last 8 “all area” elections
B. Have voted in 4 of the last 4 “all area” elections
C. Have voted in at least one of the most recent 4 elections
D. Have voted in the most recent prior “all area” election
E. Chronic Non-Voters ( Have voted in none of the last 8 “all area” elections)
F. Have ONLY voted in a Special (small area) election
You will want to target the “A” group because data shows that voting in the last election is best predictor of voting in the next election and habitual voters are key. If you have a small A group include group B, then C, then D. Stay away from E and F. It is much easier to talk to someone who already votes habitually about voting yes for your library measure rather than registering a new voter or convincing someone who does not habitually vote to vote. Voter registration drives should be a non-priority for you. You want the biggest return on investment for your GOTV work.
#3 Use the Data
Once you have selected identified your target groups you are ready to overlay the data on a current and accurate precinct/ward map. We have helped local ballot committees do this using trial accounts with NationBuilder. Mapping may be a service worth paying if you or your committee do not have experience with this. You will also need to do some turf cutting to create area maps and lists for the volunteers doing the canvassing. We’ve seen library groups partner with other local groups such as Fire and Safety to see how they did this and use their tools so no one has to reinvent the wheel. If you have those contacts use them!
Voter files also include phone numbers you can use for phone banking if you are in a rural area or have remote addresses that would be difficult to canvass.
This week’s Lib Elections News
Last week, voters in Washingtonville (NY) passed a ballot measure 733 to 289 to renovate the Moffat Library, built in 1887, that was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Voters approved borrowing up to $6.9 million for the project. New features will include a dedicated children’s and YA space, an adult reading room, a large capacity meeting room, a local history room, a kitchenette, an expanded parking area and space for Friends of the Moffat Library to sell books. Also last Tuesday, voters in Poultney (VT) supported a ballot measure to expand the Poultney Public Library 387-161. The bond is for $498,000, which could be offset by local and federal grants and a fundraising campaign. The repairs will include a 1,400 foot expansion, roof repairs, and fixes for heating and cooling.
Recently, Fulton County Libraries (GA) have had their funding restored, by the county, after a 5 million dollar cut last year. The cuts forced the libraries to reduce hours and lay off library employees. With the new influx of money, the library is working to restore hours and staff to pre-2014 levels.
NOPL continues to be in the news this week with this coverage by local news station WDSU. Included are in the video are interviews with the City Librarian, Charles Brown and a couple of library users In three minutes they walk through what will happen if the ballot measure passes or does not pass. Great job! This would be a useful model for developing talking points about your measure.
The Gilmanton Year Round Library (NH) has a ballot measure coming up this week to fund its yearly operating costs. Since 2009 the library has had to get annual approval for it’s funding. “Next week, Gilmanton voters will decide whether to contribute $46,000 toward the library’s $70,500 budget or watch it close.” If this sounds familiar, it is because we covered this last year. We will keep you up to date and hopefully they can win again this year.
Don’t forget about our upcoming webinar series next month on political campaigns and community advocacy. In this month long series we will take you through campaign tips and strategies from before you have something on the ballot until the day after the election and every detail in between. Seats are $25 and we will be filling up!
If you are in the NW and planning to attend the Oregon Library Association (OLA) conference in April, please consider attending our after hours fundraiser with the People for Oregon Libraries PAC. This is a ticketed event on April 16th at 9 pm. A $10 early bird ticket will get you an open bar with beer, wine and cocktails PLUS a select menu of appetizers. Early bird tickets are on sale until Friday!
We are so proud of our board member, Patrick “PC” Sweeney, for becoming a 2015 Library Journal Mover and Shaker. His profile will appear in the March 15th issue of LJ, but we already know how dedicated he is library advocacy from his work with us, the Story Sailboat, and many other awesome things. Also congratulations to Lauren Comito of Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) on her Mover and Shaker Award. We worked with Lauren and ULU on the coalition building in Miami Dade.
That is all for this week. Join us next week for another round up. Happy trails!