Basic Voter File Requirements

This worksheet can be used to help a party decide if it has the minimum necessary resources needed to build and utilize a voter file, in both its central office and branch offices. For more information, please see Selecting ICTs and Tools.

The databases is the basic building block of all political party technology. Once a party starts tracking data and adding to it over the years, the database will gradually become more robust. However, building it is the easy part: collecting the data itself can be challenging.

When database and voter files were first built in the United States, they were simple files that allowed for the sorting of data that could then be printed in useful formats: for example, door-to-door walking lists printed in address order, phone lists, mailing lists, or district or neighborhood lists for election day operations. For more information on member databases, why they are important and how a party can use a database in a lower tech environment, please see the corresponding sections.

A simple database requires several things to be effective:

  1. A unique identifying number for each voter to make sorting and matching data efficient.
  2. A dedicated administrator to make sure that data entry is done in a consistent and timely manner.
  3. A set of forms that are part of the system, so that the list of addresses for door-to-door canvassing, phone lists, etc., look the same every time and are easy for activists to use.

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How to get data:

  1. If possible, acquire an official list of eligible voters from the election management body;
  2. Buy data from a cell phone company;
  3. Collect data organically by talking to constituents and recording their responses; or
  4. Collect data on election day by observing which voters show up to vote.