"Seek and ye shall find" - Mathew 7:7
Philip Dodderidge is the Vice-Chair Florida Keys Democrats and searching for unregistered voters in the Florida Keys. He found 8,468 residents not in the Voter File in a project that took three days and cost $200. This is how he did it.
It's good to have the Lord on your side, when you're fighting the evil of voter suppression. The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but this project is only mapping and data analysis.
Enriching the voter file
"Voter files are digital databases and built by commercial organizations using official, publicly available government records of who is registered to vote and who cast ballots in past elections. They not only give a nationwide picture of voter registration and election turnout, but also usually include information from outside data sources (such as consumer data vendors, credit bureaus and political organizations) and are marketed as providing a rich and comprehensive record for nearly every American adult. Information on the voter file record indicates whether or not someone voted in a given election, it does not indicate whom they voted for. That stays with you in the voting booth." - Pew Research
For this project Philip first downloaded the 9,332 just the addresses of records in the voter file records for Key West, Florida. Philip then obtained a list of all residential addresses in Key West that were not in the Voter File. This yielded another 8,468 records including houses, condos, apartments, retirement homes and even some boats. Philip next plans to upload these new records to his Voter file so that he can cut turf, and assign volunteers to canvas these addresses and encourage residents to register to vote.
Mapping unregistered voters
The results were mapped using ArcGIS Online and have three data layers:
- Current voters from the Voter File
- New potentially unregistered voters from external data source who are not currently in the Voter File
- Voting precincts
These layers can be turned ON and OFF as needed
Data enrichment pays off
Data files (including Voter Files) are only as good as how current and comprehensive they are. How thorough is the data collection? When was the file last updated? People move and need to register to vote. New buildings are constructed and new owners / renters move in. People come of age to be eligible to vote. Is all this data reflected in the data file you're working with?
We used a commercial data list of addresses for this project and excluded addresses already in the Voter File to produce a list of potential unregistered voters. This cost approximately 8,000 records / $200 = 2.5 cents per record of an unregistered voter.
Canvassing to help voters register and request ballots
"More than 60 percent of adult citizens have never been asked to register to vote, and the rate was nearly identical among individuals who are and are not registered. Among respondents who had been invited to register, the most likely context was by an official at a motor vehicle agency, social service agency, or other government office." - Pew Research
Volunteer canvassing to assist unregistered voters becomes even more important as Republicans resort to voter suppression to cling to power.
Free grassroots canvassing apps
Grassroots groups should consider free canvassing apps which let them work with any list of addresses, and not just the Voter File.
TakeAway: Fight voter suppression by finding and helping unregistered voters using innovative apps and new data sources.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of voter suppression, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" - Psalm 23:4 (paraphrased)