What is common between the Obama, Trump, and Biden Presidential campaigns in 2012, 2016, and 2020 respectively? Yes, they won – but there’s more.
All three campaigns leveraged voter data to make important decisions about their campaigns, such as–
- Who to reach out to (your target audience),
- What type of messaging to use,
- The causes to champion according to their supporter base,
- Outreach methods.
Every year, campaigns use data from 200 million voting-age Americans to help them make these critical, election-winning decisions. In fact, they have 3000 data points on every single voter!
Building a voter list should be among your top priorities when planning your run for office. A good voter list will inform you, in addition to the points above–
- Who could be your loyal supporter base?
- Which supporters can donate to your campaign?
- Which are the areas with a high concentration of your base?
- Areas where your voters need your help – such as receiving a ballot, voter registration, etc.
- Voters who have moved away, passed on, and new voters who have moved into a particular area.
This article covers how to build a voter list so you can leverage this vital resource to win your campaign.
Where to begin building your voter list
There are many sources from which you can start building your voter data. Once you collate your lists from multiple sources, you can layer them to get the most accurate, updated list to begin your outreach campaign.
We’ve listed sources to build a voter list below:
- State voter files,
- National voter file,
- Voter file data vendors,
- Public records,
- Surveys and polls,
- Social media,
- CRM software.
State voter files
Most States maintain a voter list that includes voter information, a list of registered voters, and publicly available information such as their demographic details. For a fee ranging from $0 to $37,000, political campaigns can get this list from the state’s election office or a data vendor.
State voter files typically contain the following:
- Personal information: This includes a voter’s name, date of birth, address, and other such demographic information.
- Voter registration information: You will know the date an individual registered to vote, their party affiliation, and the status of their registration (e.g., active, inactive, or canceled).
- Voting history: With voting history, you will know if a voter has participated in any recent election and the type of ballot they cast (e.g., in-person, by mail).
- Precinct information: Information about the voter’s precinct and district, their assigned polling place, etc.
- Other information: Some States also provide information about the voter’s race, ethnicity, etc.
The U.S Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has listed the price and the type of data available in each State’s voter list.
|State||Availability||Price||Information included||Information excluded||State||Availability||Price||Information included|
|Alabama||Open||$37,000||All information not excluded||SSN, DOB||Montana||Open||$1,000||All information not excluded|
|Alaska||Open||$20||Name, address, political party||DOB, SSN, DL number, voter number, place of birth, signature||Nebraska||Mixed||$500||Name, address, birth year, phone number, voter status, voter ID number, voting location, voter history, registration date, political party|
|Arizona||Mixed||$516||Name, address, phone number, birth year, political party, registration date, occupation, voting history||DOB, SSN, DL number, census number, email address, parents’ names, place of birth, signature||Nevada||Open||$20,000||Name, address, DOB, telephone number, voter number|
|Arkansas||Open||$0||Name, address, precinct||New Hampshire||Mixed||$275||Name, address, political party, voting history|
|California||Mixed||$15,000||Name, address, telephone number, political party||SSN, DL number, signature||New Jersey||Open||$375||All information not excluded|
|Colorado||Open||$50||Name, address, birth year, political party, voting history||SSN, DL number, DOB, signature||New Mexico||Mixed||$5,215||All information not excluded|
|Connecticut||Open||$300||SSN||New York||Mixed||$0||Name, address, political party|
|Delaware||Mixed||$25||Name, address, birth year, political party, district, voting history||SSN, DOB, DL number, telephone number||North Carolina||Open||$0||Name, voter number, address, gender, race, age, political party, precinct, district, voting history|
|D.C.||Open||$2||Political party, registration date, ward, precinct, voting history, signature||SSN, DOB, email address, telephone number, registration location||North Dakota||Restricted||$2, 120||Name, address, voter number, voter status, precinct, district, voting history|
|Florida||Open||$0||All information not excluded||SSN, DOB, DL number, voter number, registration date and location, signature, felony convictions||Ohio||Open||$0||Name, address, precinct, voting history|
|Georgia||Open||$250||All information not excluded||DOB, SSN, email address, DL number, registration location||Oklahoma||Open||$0||Name, address, political party|
|Hawaii||Mixed||$500||Name, address, district, precinct, voter status||All other information||Oregon||Open||$500||Name, address, precinct, political party|
|Idaho||Open||$20||Name, address, precinct||Pennsylvania||Open||$20||Name, DOB, address, district, voting history|
|Illinois||Restricted||$500||All information not excluded||Rhode Island||Open||$25||Name, address, precinct, ward, district, political party|
|Indiana||Open||$0||All information not excluded||SSN, DOB, gender, DL number, telephone number, email address, voter number, registration date, voting history||South Carolina||Open||$2,500||Name, DOB, gender, race, address, telephone number|
|Iowa||Mixed||$1,100||All information not excluded||SSN, DL number, voter number||South Dakota||Mixed||$2,500||All information not excluded|
|Kansas||Open||$200||SSN, DL number||Tennessee||Mixed||$2,500||All information not excluded|
|Kentucky||Mixed||$2,000||All information not excluded||SSN||Texas||Open||$1,279||Name, DOB, address, voter number|
|Louisiana||Open||$5,000||All information not excluded||SSN, DOB, DL number, mother’s maiden name, email address, telephone number, registration location||Utah||Open||$1,050||Name, address, telephone number, political party|
|Maine||Mixed||$2,200||Name, DOB, address, district, voter status, voter number, registration date, voting history||Vermont||Open||$0||All information not excluded|
|Maryland||Restricted||$125||Name, address, gender, DOB, political party, voting history||SSN, DL number||Virginia||Mixed||$5,000||Name, age, gender, address, district, voting history|
|Massachusetts||Mixed||$0||Name, address||Washington||Open||$0||All information not excluded|
|Michigan||Open||$23||Name, age, address||SSN, DOB, DL number, phone number, registration location, signature||West Virginia||Open||$500||Name, address, political party, voter status|
|Minnesota||Restricted||$51||Name, age, address, phone number, district, voting history||SSN, DOB, DL number, voter number, military ID number, passport number||Wisconsin||Open||$12, 500||Name, address, district, voter number, voting history, registration location|
|Mississippi||Open||$1,100||Name, address, registration date, voter status, political party, voting history||SSN, DOB, DL number, voter number, telephone number, fax number, email address, registration location||Wyoming||Mixed||$0||Name, gender, address, political party|
|Missouri||Open||$35||Name, DOB, address, voter number, precinct, ward, voting history|
For more information on State voter file prices and availability, please check out The U.S Election Assistance Commission (EAC)’s list.
How do you acquire a state voters’ list?
You can obtain a State voter list from your party’s state office, state election office, or an authorized data vendor.
Campaigns also use readily available public records to build a voter list. These records can include voter registration rolls, property records, and telephone directories.
However, when using public records, campaigns must strategically gather relevant information. Here’s how you can use public records to build voter lists:
- Identify relevant public records: From social media profiles and Twitter activity to voter registration information – a wide range of information is considered public record. Determine which public records are relevant for your campaign’s list building. Examples include property records, tax records, and driver’s license records.
- Determine eligibility criteria: Once you find the correct public records to gather information, determine what eligibility criteria are required. That would act as a beginning point to collect data.
- Verify the accuracy of the record: It might save you a lot of time and trouble if you cross-verify public record data with other forms of voter data. For example, while some public records may locate some voters in your constituency, others may indicate that they have moved or passed on. Good cross-verification lists include social security details or utility bills.
- Compile the voter list: Once you have gone through public records, you can compile your voter list. Experienced campaigns compile data from different sources to build a holistic profile of the target voters. This is your time to understand your voters better.
Do note that using public records and voter identification campaigns is subject to election laws. Stay updated with the laws in your constituency.
|CallHub Tip: Always Obtain Consent.|
Some states require that you receive explicit consent before using individuals’ public records for activities such as voter registration. In that case, it might help you to run calling or text opt-in campaigns to receive consent.
Read Also: Staying Compliant with your Texting Campaigns
Surveys and polls
Opinion polls and surveys are an important way in which election campaigns understand the pulse of their community of voters. A campaign can get valuable and first-hand insights on voters by conducting surveys and polls, such as–
- The issues that matter most to them.
- Their voting habits.
- Their political views.
Campaigns can then use this information in their outreach efforts to strike a chord with their supporters.
There are several ways to conduct polls and surveys to create voter lists. We list them below.
- Telephone surveys: If campaigns want to reach a large number of voters in a timely and cost-effective manner, then telephone surveys are a perfect choice. This typically includes calls to landlines or cell phones.
Telephone surveys are instrumental when the responses you seek are not ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, and you would benefit from elaborating on those questions. For example, “Why do you support Candidate X? Which of their policies appeal to you the most?”
Read Also: How To Set Up Survey Phone Calls For The Best Insights
- Online surveys: You could also design surveys that can quickly reach a large audience on social media, email, or your website. Use tools such as Google Forms, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey, which help you easily set up an online survey. You can share these surveys as links via text messages, display them on your website or share them on social media.
A survey template on Google Forms
- In-person surveys: If you want more in-depth and personal conversations with your voters, in-person surveys are a great way to make it happen. When your volunteers are door canvassing, you can hand them surveys to engage in conversations with voters.
You could also hand out surveys at rallies, town hall meetings, or at your speeches.
- Mail surveys: You could go old-school and send out surveys via direct mail. This works exceptionally well when your voter base is limited to a specific geographical area. Direct mail is a cost-effective way to reach voters for surveys and can cater to older voters who may not be familiar with the technology.
- Online polls: Social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter include features to conduct polls. Use Instagram stories or Facebook and Twitter polls for immediate feedback and responses.
Here’s how CallHub uses polls and surveys on its Instagram page:
It is important to note that no matter which survey or poll method you use to collect voter data, you must always strive to be impartial in your data collection methods. Fairly representing the views of your voters is the key to obtaining accurate data that you can confidently use to strategize your election run.
Voter data is freely available through targeted ads on social media platforms. Campaigns could understand more about their voters based on the content type and ads they interacted with.
However, social media is a slippery slope, as everyone learned after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and their misuse of Facebook data. Always use methods that respect people’s privacy and follow the rules.
A few good pointers to remember are:
- Be transparent about how you use voter data from social media and what type of information you are showing people through that.
- Take informed consent before using someone’s personal data.
- Use only reliable and trustworthy data firms to build a voter list. Choose firms that respect people’s privacy.
- Comply with the platform’s rules for political campaigns, accounts, and promotions.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software
A customer relationship management software may not help you acquire new voter data directly. However, it can help you manage, clean, and update your existing list.
With a CRM for your political campaign, you can–
- Centralize data collection: Never lose information when switching between your CRM and outreach software.
- Identify trends and patterns: You can use information stored in your CRM from multiple campaigns to identify trends and patterns. Learn how voters react to some conditions as compared to others.
- Understand your audience: Through analytics features offered by your CRM software, you gain a deeper understanding of your audience and their behavior.
- Segment your audience: You can categorize and classify your voters into different groups. This will help your volunteers know what appeals to each group and speak with them accordingly.
You can use tags, segmentation, and more tools inside a CRM to indicate which contacts are–
- Not interested,
- Sway voters,
- Ideologically against your campaign.
With streamlined voter data on a CRM software, you will be better positioned to make decisions about your outreach, canvassing, and GOTV efforts.
Read Also: How to PhoneBank with VoteBuilder the Smart and Easy Way
National Voter File
The national voter file is a record of all registered voters in the US. It is maintained by private organizations and made available to the public and political campaigns.
There is no single “national” database in the United States. National voter files are sourced from multiple public records, thousands of data points, and purchased voter data – all layered on top of each other to create a national voter database.
National voter files are often acquired from data vendors. For example, Republicans work with Data Trust, and Democrats source their data from TargetSmart.
Voter file data vendors
Private players are a part of the voter data ecosystem. If you want to build a voter list, purchasing data from vendors is the easiest way to do so.
Voter file data vendors collect, clean, and maintain voter data regularly and sell them to political campaigns and other organizations.
Here’s information you can expect from data vendors:
- Basic information: The list can provide information about a voter, such as their name, gender, address, birth date, and voting history.
- Demographic details: Information regarding race, ethnicity, education level, employment status, and income.
- Voter scoring and modeling: If you want scores indicating the likelihood of a voter supporting you or score voters for partisanship, some data vendors can even give you that information based on data analytics. They can also model demographic and/or political information about a group of voters.
- Geocoding and mapping: Vendors helps political campaigns visualize and analyze voter data, such as mapping voter address or precincts. This gives you an idea of the socio-economic markups of the city and the locations with the highest concentration of your supporters.
- Outreach tools: Voter data vendors also offer a variety of outreach tools to reach voters – such as emails, phone calls, text messages, and door-to-door canvassing.
- Data analysis and reporting: If campaigns wish to understand their voters in-depth and build strategies around it, then data vendors also provide data analysis and reporting tools. Data vendors collect voter lists from various sources and layer data to create holistic profiles of voters that can serve as reference points to campaigns.
Read Also: Top 7 Strategies That Help Your Campaign in Voter Outreach | CallHub
With these sources in place; you will be building an exhaustive and updated voter list in no time. If you need help scouting data vendors for your campaign, we’ve created a list of trustworthy voter data vendors in the next section.
List of voter file data vendors
When deciding on a voter data vendor, you need someone who is–
- Accurate with the information they provide.
- Trustworthy about the analytics and data they provide.
- Compliant with laws, failing which your campaign could be fined for flouting them.
We’ve listed voter data vendors below who have a reputation for being all of the above. Explore each of these vendors to build a voter list for your campaign.
|Please note this list is compiled based on our team’s best estimate of the trustworthiness and accuracy of the following vendors. Due diligence from your campaign team is necessary before purchasing a list from any of these vendors.|
List of data vendors to explore:
- L2 Data
- Political Data Inc.
- Data Trust
L2 Data promises two things:
- Consistent formatting
- Easy-to-use analysis tool
Voter data from L2 can be easily selected, segmented, and analyzed to inform critical political decisions.
Why you should choose L2
With L2 data, you get–
- Rooftop views of each household and information on its individual occupants.
- State-wise voter lists.
- Information such as voting history, previous turnout, and neighborhood-wise data on voting patterns.
- Data hygiene for clean lists. L2 ensures it by including intensive human and computer quality checks, using matching technology, rigorous standardized formatting, and more.
- 650+ demographic and behavioral data points such as the likelihood of wearing masks during COVID waves, thoughts on Medicare for all, turnout for 2021, news channel preference, social media usage, pro-choice stance, Green new deal views, and more.
- You can narrow down the exact constituents you are looking for and target them.
- Go through millions of contacts in real-time.
You can sign up for a free trial with L2 before you make the plunge to purchase. You can also call them at 202-804-1984 to know more.
NationBuilder acquires its data from county and state election offices. Once acquired, they aggregate and standardize the data in an easy-to-use manner. Here are the fields they make available to election officials–
- Individual information: This includes state file ID, county file ID, prefix; first, middle, and last name; suffix, birthdate; language, sex, email; DNC registration; and more.
- Contact information: Multiple addresses, city, country code, mailing address, zip, state, county, etc.
- District information: federal district, state upper district, state lower district, county, fire, village, city, school districts, and precinct codes.
NationBuilder also provides software tools to help you sort through your data, such as personal fundraising pages, turf-cutting tools for the field, and volunteer management.
Why you should choose NationBuilder
NationBuilder takes laws and compliance seriously. It is at the core of any voter data exchange that they undertake. They adhere to all state regulations concerning voter privacy.
District or county files requested from NationBuilder are free of cost. You can ask for free voter files with information on 190 million Americans if you are signed up with NationBuilder’s CRM.
With a database of 263 million individuals, TargetSmart claims to be the data vendor with the highest quality among competitors. Their claim is based on the fact that they update their database more regularly than any other vendor.
TargetSmart is known to be the vendor of choice for democratic leaders and nominees.
Why you should choose TargetSmart
TargetSmart is not only a data vendor but also provides analytical and survey tools to reach your target audience. If you want to create your data models to build your list, TargetSmart is a good choice.
TargetSmart does not display its pricing for all to see. To know their prices, you need to get in touch with them.
Political Data Inc.
Political Data Inc. has collaborated with progressive campaigns, advocacy groups, and unions in California for over 30 years.
They provide mobile canvassing apps to canvassing lists, volunteer management, email blast, and fundraising and compliance tools along with voter data.
Why you should choose Political Data Inc.
With PDI, you can get data for a variety of use cases:
- Mail files: These are voter data files specially curated for direct mail outreach. They have even banded together all individuals in a household so the same mail does not reach them multiple times.
- Printable walk/phone lists: Door-to-door canvassing is the core of any political outreach efforts. PDI’s data provides consolidated walk lists you can print from a PDF file. Phone lists are optimal for phone banking.
- Phone files: PDI’s phone files are developed for immediate use by telemarketing firms to begin their calling campaign.
To know about their pricing, you can contact their sales team.
Data Trust has served the Republican and conservative political campaigns since 2011. In their own words, they aim to “provide the best, most affordable political data on the market.”
Why you should choose Data Trust
If you are a conservative or Republican, Data Trust is your go-to data vendor. They also serve corporates and specific trade associations. Data Trust boasts voter data from 300 million individuals, with 2500 individual data points.
Data Trust works on a subscription model. As with all data vendors, you must contact Data Trust’s sales team to know the price.
While we aim to provide a list of trusted data vendors, this is not comprehensive. The market for voter data services is multiplying, with new technology amplifying data models.
Do reach out to multiple vendors to find the right one for you, depending on their offerings and prices. The vetting process for accurate voter data provided by vendors is essential for your voter list to be viable and win-worthy.
How to make an incomplete voter list work for you?
A political campaign faces a barrage of problems. You may be short on time, money, or resources for your campaign.
If you haven’t built a voter list like you envisioned, you can still make an incomplete list work for you. We list steps to make the shortest of lists viable for your campaign.
Determine your target audience.
To begin with, look at your list and determine which categories of voters fall into your “ideal supporter” list. You could think of voters with specific demographics, locations, political affiliations, and voting histories.
If that does not work, run a quick voter identification calling campaign to determine which voters align with your campaign and can be persuaded further.
Read Also: Interactive Voter Identification Scripts for your Primary Campaign
Obtain voter data.
If you do not have the time to go through public records and collate and analyze voter data, you can build a voter list by purchasing voter lists in your geography.
An added tip is to ask interested voters to connect you with their friends or family who are more likely to support your campaign.
Clean and merge data
Cleaning and integrating data includes these steps:
Step 1: Remove duplicates, individuals with crucial data missing, etc.
Step 2: Correct errors by cross-verifying data when you phone bank or canvass door-to-door.
Step 3: Use basic formatting on Excel or google sheets to ensure you have a standardized data set. You can also sort your data on your CRM.
Read Also: 9 Best CRMs for Political Campaigns to Optimize the Process
Verify data quality.
With less time and/or money, you must expedite your verification process.
When running phone banking or canvassing campaigns, you can ask your voters if your information is correct.
If you cannot do that, look at your list at the end of the day. As a quick exercise, you can check out of every 100 people contacted how many people were not contactable, had moved, had incorrect details, etc. This will give you a rough idea of the percentage of your data that may need to be more accurate.
With this information, you can estimate the percentage of your contact list that might not be viable. Or, if you find a high incidence of non-viable numbers, you should opt for a different list.
Segment the list
Your voter lists may be incomplete, but you can continue to segment them based on shared interests or traits to make your campaign messaging more targeted and relevant to each group.
|If you want to learn how you can make the best use of segmenting and microtargeting, here’s a guide for you: Beginner’s Guide to Micro-targeting for Political Campaigns.|
Add additional data.
If you do reach a phase where you may need to know more about voters, scout for readily available information such as shopping history, previous voting history, etc.
Some of these are available for a small fee at your state’s election office.
Store and secure your list.
Ensure your list is always safe and updated, and no information is lost in the process. Integrating your outreach software with your CRM software is the best way to do this. For example, CallHub allows campaigns to easily integrate with tools such as NationBuilder, and NGP VAN and even offers Zapier to connect with other CRM tools.
Find an outreach tool that helps you quickly move and update data, so you make the best use of your limited information.
Building voter lists is an ongoing and repeated process. It requires careful consideration and attention to get it right. In addition to it, you also need to know the relevant laws and regulations about data privacy and security, and comply with them to avoid fines.
Using relational organizing while building a voter list
If you are a grassroots campaign, your voter list building will significantly benefit from relational organizing. Relational organizing is a strategy used by political campaigns to harness the power of personal relationships.
It is based on the idea that a campaign’s supporters are most likely to know and befriend other people similar to them in terms of ideology. Therefore, relational organizing encourages supporters and volunteers to contact relatives and friends to campaign for a candidate.
Relational organizing can be your biggest ally in building an effective voter list. With it, you can–
- Connect with voters: You can connect and collaborate with your supporters and volunteers. In doing so, you will understand their psyche and will be able to tailor messages according to the causes they care about the issues they support, and more.
- Build trust: Taking an interest in building personal relationships with voters can also build trust in the campaign. This increases a voters’ motivation and incentive to vote for your candidate.
- Identifying supporters: With relational organizing, you will identify voters most likely to support you and can thus target your campaign and messaging to cater to them.
- Engage voters: You can encourage voters to participate in your campaign and increase their engagement actively. On the side of the voters, they would also feel like they are meaningfully contributing to a campaign they care about. It increases their loyalty to your campaign.
- Expand your reach: By tapping into the networks of your supporters and volunteers, your voter database will expand. And the best part? You do not have to worry about data accuracy, because this information is received directly from someone close to them.
You can implement relational organizing through–
- Door-to-door canvassing
- Phone banking
- Text messaging
- Group meetings and events.
With relational organizing for building a voter list, campaigns can design personalized, efficiently targeted messages to increase voter engagement, voter registration, and voter turnout.
Want to begin with relational organizing to build your list but do not know how? CallHub offers relational organizing tools through phone banking and text messaging campaigns.
It is quick to set up, and the best part is that volunteers can engage in relational organizing right from CallHub’s mobile app. It is efficient and effective and guarantees the highest contact rates quickly.
Ethical considerations while building a voter list
When you are making a voter list, you are dealing with voters’ private, personal information. Considering the implications of a data leak or misuse of voter data, here are some ethical considerations for you.
- Privacy: In a democracy, everyone is entitled to privacy. Voter data is sensitive and private information. When dealing with it, remember the laws and regulations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
- Accuracy: Political campaigns must ensure the data they use is accurate and updated. Cross-check its quality by using multiple data sources, cleaning your lists, and removing incorrect information.
- Transparency: Obtain informed consent from voters about their data usage. Inform them how you will use their data in your election campaign. Provide clear and accessible information about the kind of information you possess and privacy policies, and allow them to control their data.
- Responsibility: As a future leader in the running, it is your responsibility to ensure voter data is used ethically. Do not use data to spread misinformation or increase discriminatory practices or malicious activities. This includes avoiding activities such as voter suppression, data breaches, or unauthorized information sharing.
- Respect: Even though detailed information and data models of individuals are available thanks to technology, you are still dealing with individual lives. Respect and maintain the dignity and privacy of voters. Do not engage in malpractice, manipulative tactics, or misleading information.
With this, you are ready to build a voter list that will be key to winning your election.
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