DemLabs blog

Use the best tool(s) available.

It's no different in campaigns. Enrich the Voter File with other data sources for better results. Smarter targeting and  canvassing. Better results in fund raising and finding unregistered voters.

Over 15,000 data variables are available (some of it for free) including demographics, lifestyle and purchasing behavior. Savvy marketers, government agencies and non-profits all use geo-data and geographical information systems (GIS) already. But for some reason it isn't widely used by progressive campaigns and advocacy groups? Many groups are even unaware of this valuable resource that can be used with or without a voter file.

Case study

DemLabs used ArcGISLiving Atlas and Community Analyst in a recent project to find unregistered SF voters and identify areas to canvass. This project took less than a day to complete. This is how we did it:
- The Voter File was first mapped with each dot on the map representing an individual record.
- We applied an 'age' layer to the city to see where residents of different ages were clustered. This was independent of the voter file and included all SF residents - both registered and unregistered voters.
- Zooming into the map showed the areas with high densities of young people. This information was then overlaid with the Voter File records to identify specific areas with young people but few registered voters.
- These results were used to create target list of addresses (with another app) for volunteers to canvas and encourage students to register to vote.
Here are more details on how the project was implemented:
Twenty of the 15,000 variables to choose from:
  Age by: sex, race
  Households by: poverty status and income
  Education by: high school diploma, Bachelors
  Households by race
  Race by: diversity index, hispanic, minority
  Place of birth
  Marital Status by: married, divorced, never married
  Households by: total, family size, age, family type,
  Households by rent, mortgage status
  Population by: total, rural, urban, density, sex, families, relationship
  Health insurance coverage
  Jobs by: employed civilians, unemployment rate
  Language spoken at home
  Poverty by: race, education, labor force
  Transportation to work by: sex, carpool, walk, bicycle, alone
  Spending on food, apparel, education and  transportation
  Crime Indices – total, assault, larceny, vehicle theft
  Veteran and military service
  Housing by: total, vacant, owner occupied
  Business by: total employees and sales


The apps and geodata we used in this project are from esri, a global leader in geographic information systems (GIS) and geo-database solutions. esri is based in California and has over five thousand employees with billions in annual revenue.

Use all the tools in the tool box for better results in targeting, registering new voters, canvassing and getting-out-the-vote (GOTV). Learn more on applying GIS to support democracy here.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

Please share this bulletin. Democracy Labs is a SF-based, hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation for progressives campaigns and advocacy groups. 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.