DemLabs blog

Finding swing voters is hard. Locating people with specific traits, has typically required money, time and technical skills - putting it out of the reach of smaller campaigns. Here's a free app that meets this need and the story behind how we found it.

Ideas can come from anywhere. This one was sparked by a request from an NAACP executive trying to understand why Elliston, Virginia, was being proposed as the location for a hazardous facility. Her suspicion was that it had something to do with the town having a larger percentage of African Americans and where there might be a less coordinated political resistance to installing a facility. But she didn't have the data to back her hunch. DemLabs conducted a quick search on Elliston with Esri Maps For Public Policy, a free tool which confirmed her suspicion. Esri uses data from the census and thousands of other sources. Notice the cluster of African Americans (shaded yellow) near Elliston in the map below in a predominantly white area (shaded pink).

A map showing the racial demographics of a location

We shared this map with other groups which led to another request. Could they use the map to locate likely swing voters who had specific traits such as college-educated, white women?
Yes, absolutely!

DemLabs worked with experts at Esri to create a free dashboard to locate college-educated, non-hispanic white women. The results of a query for Richmond, Virginia, are shown on the map below.

Further research confirmed the need for a tool, such as Policy Map, that progressive groups with little money or tech expertise could use on their own.

A still from the Policy Map showing Educated Females

Racial concentrations are shown in different colors on the map. Lighter colors indicate a predominantly white female population while areas with darker shades have more African American women. The brown circles represent the percentage of college educated residents. The larger the circle, the more college graduates there are there. This map shows areas with college educated, white women. These insights can be cross-referenced against the voter file to improve voter targeting.

Explore other areas by entering a location in the search box as shown in the animation below where we researched Savannah, Georgia. The dashboard can also be used to find people with other traits beyond just white women with college degrees. Esri also sells ArcGIS with many more features and thousands of data sources.

GIF of Policy App showing demographic breakdown of White Educated Females

This pro bono project took two days to complete. Many technical challenges that progressive groups face are easily solved, but there is a lack of communication between people in the field who know the problems and the technologists who know of existing apps that can solve them. This lack of communication often results in apps being re-invented or just sticking with old ways of doing things.

There are two kinds of people: those who know the answers, and those who know the people who know the answers. DemLabs is the latter. We engage with campaigns and activists to understand their challenges and then translate them into product requirements that technical experts can solve. And the results are freely shared. We neither develop software nor sell apps which keeps us unbiased. Instead we're an independent resource to locate innovative new approaches for progressives and explain how to use them.

So the next time you have a problem that you think others might have too, contact us here.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

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

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.