Canvass smarter: Plan walking routes with apps that companies use to deliver packages

6 mins read

Canvass smarter: Plan walking routes with apps that companies use to deliver packages

Canvass more houses in less time with smart route planning software.

Canvass better with software that businesses use to plan their deliveries. It’s fast, simple and affordable.

FedEx and UPS deliver millions of packages daily. Business route planning technology can also design the best walking and driving routes for your canvassers. This lets you contact more potential voters in less time with fewer volunteers.

Such route planning software works with a voter file (VAN) or any other list of addresses you plan to canvass such as a list of college students, union workers, retirement homes… The canvassing results can be uploaded to the voter file or some other software program to follow up with the people who were canvased.

This blog shows how to plan canvassing routes with ArcGIS Online used by thousands of users including Federal nonprofits, Federal and State agencies, startups and large corporations. The software is fast, easy to use and affordable.

Consider you have 50 houses scattered over a large rural area to canvass with 5 volunteers. Each stop at a house requires 15 minutes and your volunteers are only working for 8 hours. Which houses do you assign to each volunteer to visit? What route should they follow to cover all their assigned houses with the least amount of travel?

Plan smart canvassing routes with ArcGIS Online

How to plan a smart canvassing route

Upload the list of locations to be mapped, such as a list exported from a VAN or a list of college students or houses in a community. The list you upload to canvass does not have to include the name of the occupant or a VAN ID. This is useful in canvassing areas with potentially unregistered voters who are not in the voter file. Enter the parameters for your canvassing campaign into the planning software including:

  • How many canvassers?
  • Where will they start and finish their routes?
  • Will they be walking or driving?
  • How long is each visit to a house expected to take?

The software uses the inputs you provide to calculate the best routes for the whole canvassing team along with detailed plans for each canvasser. The app also handles ‘turf cutting’ so that all volunteers are assigned similar workloads.

Software designs the best canvassing routes for the whole team and for each canvasser

More about canvassing and route planning

  • Can the app be used to canvass people who are not currently in the voter file? Yes. Any list of addresses can be mapped and canvassed.
  • Can the information collected be integrated back to the voter file? Yes. Keep details of the VAN ID in each record in order to integrate the information collected back into the voter file.
  • Can voters use paper forms with this approach? Yes. Volunteers can be provided their route along with paper forms. They conduct the canvass and fill out the paper forms. The information they collected can be entered into ArcGIS later.
  • Do the walking routes take hills and freeway overpasses into account while drawing the routes? Yes.
    Can volunteers start and end canvassing from locations they choose such as their own houses? Yes.

Applying business technology to canvassing voters

“FedEx delivers over 3 million packages daily. An average FedEx driver can deliver anywhere between 75 and 125 packages per day! The boundaries of a route, also known as driver territories, are configured in advance and allows ISPs to split a large geographic area up into delivery zones so their drivers aren’t wasting time driving all across the city.

Route optimization typically uses algorithms. This is because the complexity of route optimization means that humans can’t easily compute all the different parameters to find an optimal route, especially in a short amount of time. It would be far too time-consuming. Route optimization algorithms aim to solve two of the most difficult computer science problems: the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) and the Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP). And solving these problems helps you plan delivery routes efficiently.” – Routific

Apply for free help with using ArcGIS Online Route Planner for voter registration projects here.

TakeAway: Canvass smarter and register more voters with route planning software.


Image: Incredibles © Walt Disney Company

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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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