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Data Snacks: How do we know?

We are often asked how we know who to talk to. How do we know which households, or phone numbers lean Democrat or Republican, for that matter. It all starts with the Voter File.

In Arizona, the Secretary of State is the “chief elections officer.” The SOS maintains the official Voter Registration list, aka the Voter File. The office is responsible for assuring compliance with Federal and State laws.

Counties are allowed to maintain their own voter list, but it must contain all of the information in the State database. Only Pima and Maricopa counties keep their own file. Lucky for those of us in Maricopa County you can find the numbers online, updated every 5 minutes. Maricopa County Voter Registration Totals.

In most states, including Arizona, the Voter File is public information. Use of the data is restricted to elections and redistricting, not commercial purposes. Misuse is a Class 6 felony. Political Parties (with some restrictions) are supplied a copy of the Voter File by statute.

Public information doesn’t mean it’s free or without restrictions. Purchasing the file is relatively inexpensive. It provides:

  1. Name in full and appropriate title.

  2. Party preference.

  3. Date of registration.

  4. Residence address.

  5. Mailing address, if different from residence address.

  6. Zip code.

  7. Telephone number if given.

  8. Birth year.

  9. Occupation if given.

  10. Voting history for all elections in the prior four years and any other information regarding registered voters that the county recorder or city or town clerk maintains electronically and that is public information.

  11. All data relating to early voters, including ballot requests and ballot returns.

Notice that the File does not disclose WHO you vote for or which way you vote on an initiative, only your party and whether you voted.

Democrats, Republicans and other groups use database tools based on the Voter Files. Analytical data is merged with information from the Voter File. Candidates and committees buy this enhanced file to determine the strategy and tactical plans for their campaigns.

Exactly how an analytics firm calculates whether a voter supports such issues as gun control, abortion access or public education is proprietary. The same is true for how they predict how a voter “leans”.

Votebuilder by NGP VAN is the “enhanced” database tool used by most Democrats. Nationbuilder is a similar product. GOP Data Center (formerly Voter Vault), Ecanvasser, Trail Blazer are other campaign tools.

Analytical voter tools are here to stay.

Want to look back at past Data Snacks or share with friends?

Visit the Data Snacks blog on our website!

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