A better way to find and canvas unregistered voters

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A better way to find and canvas unregistered voters

Find potentially unregistered voters – faster, easier and with less money using better technology and new data sources.

Registering every eligible voter is critical with the voter suppression underway.

“There are approximately 51 million eligible Americans are still not registered to vote. This represents almost one in four eligible persons, disproportionately low-income voters, people of color, and younger Americans. Among eligible voters, some 30 percent of African Americans, 40 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asian Americans, and 41 percent of young adults (age 18-24), were not registered to vote” – Demos

“The American voting system requires individuals to register before they can vote, many political campaigns, nonprofits, religious organizations, and other groups hold voter registration drives… more than 60 percent of adult citizens have never been asked to register to vote.” – Pew Charitable Trusts

Why Are Millions of Citizens Not Registered to Vote? Download the Pew Trusts report.

Why are millions of citizens not registered to vote?

Voting rights start with registration

Center for Common Ground (CCG) is a non-partisan voting rights organization led by people of color. It educates and empowers under-represented voters in voter suppression states to engage in elections and advocate for their right to vote. CCG teamed with DemLabs to innovate a new approach to identify and canvas unregistered voters in Petersburg, Virginia – a predominantly Black area. This blog explains how to:
1. Identify houses and apartments without a registered voter listed there
2. A streamlined approach to canvas locations with a potential unregistered voter
3. How to improve volunteer productivity with better walking routes

Center for Common Ground is a small, frugal grassroots group with a nationwide footprint so the solution had to be:
1. Affordable
2. Being able to used quickly
3. Easy to use with fe technical skills and train volunteers on
4. Use proven, scalable technology that can very large files of addresses

The solution uses esri ArcGIS Online for mapping and canvassing. esri is a fifty year old software firm with over 9,000 employees and thousands of customers.
A DemLabs fuzzy logic program is used to compare addresses potentially unregistered voters with a list of residences in the area. It can handle addresses that maybe spelt differently (123 Main Street vs. 123 Main St. vs 123 Main) and formatted differently.

Find unregistered voters

Find potentially unregistered voters by subtracting all known houses with a voter from the list of all the houses in an area

DemLabs obtained a list of residences in Petersburg which is shown as grey dots. Center for Common Ground prepared a list of addresses in Petersburg from the Voter File which are shown as purple dots. We subtracted the known voters from the list of all the residences using fuzzy logic. Potentially unregistered voters are represented by blue dots on this map. Each dot reveals the underlying addresses when clicked.

This system is fast, affordable and scalable, but has three known shortcomings:
1. A house may have one registered voter and others who are eligible but not registered. They system will not identify them.
2. The system only indicates an address without a registered voter but does not show how many unregistered voters there are at an address.
3. It does not work well with addresses for mailboxes or high rise buildings with multiple units.

We also overlaid state legislative district boundaries on this map using ArcGIS Living Atlas. The Atlas also offers other layers such as census blocs, tracts, demographic clusters so that canvassing can be better targeted at specific communities based on over 25 criteria such as income, education, race, health insurance etc.

Innovative technology and new data sources make this solution affordable for even small grassroots groups. A typical project costs about $5-10/thousand records not including the cost of the voter lists. Campaign managers arrange for the list of registered voters they would like to compare against residential addresses. The National Conference of State Legislators provides details on the process here.learn more about this system

Find potentially unregistered voters with fuzzy logic that subtracts known voters from list of all residences in a chosen area

Smarter canvassing

Volunteers are assigned locations to canvas from the list of potential unregistered voters. They can use the canvassing app to locate the house and ask the resident a set of questions created by the organizer. Multiple volunteers can canvas at the same time and all their submissions are reflected on a map immediately so that the same house isn’t contacted twice accidentally. (Thanks to Roy Miller with esri for help in designing this app).

Volunteers get the canvassing app in the form of a link and can use it immediately on any phone or tablet without having to instal any software. The canvassing app is free as part of this system, and can be used by any number of volunteers against any size file of addresses.

Realtime canvassing shows results immediately so the same house is not contacted twice

Walking routes made simple

How can volunteers be provided with areas to canvas (cutting turf) and provided with the optimal way to reach houses to canvas (walking route)? This problem is similar to how FedEx or UPS plan routes for their drivers to reach the most houses in the least time. This Center For Common Ground solution uses the ArcGIS Route Planning module to prepare walking routes for volunteers that they can download onto their phones while canvassing. Learn more about affordable route planning against any list of addresses here.

How to plan the best walking route for canvassers and volunteers
Designing the best canvassing route to reach unregistered voters

TakeAway: Make sure every eligible voter has their say. Fight voter suppression by using the best and most affordable technology to find and canvas unregistered voters.


Credit: Incredibles 2 (c) Disney / Pixar – Dash Parr
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Originally posted on DEMLABS BLOG

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

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