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Canvassing innovations to register more voters and increase voter turnout

Canvass smarter to register more voters and increase voter turnout to counter Republican voter suppression.

How can organizers:

  • Canvass people from the voter file or any other contact list?
  • Customize the survey questions for canvassers to ask?
  • Handle deep canvassing where volunteers contact the same person several times?
  • Provide volunteers with canvassing scripts they can easily refer to?
    Map the results immediately so organizers can monitor the canvassing operation?
  • Use the information collected by canvassers for outreach and to update the voter file?

See how the Democratic Women of Kern County (DWK) and Voter PAC canvass smarter in California's Central Valley with innovative new solutions that are affordable and easy to use. Learn more about the canvassing solution here.

Dynamic canvassing to fight voter suppression

Canvassing app with built in script

How the canvassing system works

  • Existing voters: A list of the voters to canvass is exported from the voter file (VAN) and loaded into the canvassing database
  • New potential voters: Houses without registered voters are located and uploaded for canvassers to contact
  • Canvassers can use the same app to contact existing or new voters. Canvassers can also add new contacts who were not in the original list.
  • Survey questions are added based on the information to be collected in a particular community
  • Canvassers can see the script they should use while contact voters in the app itself
  • Organizers can change the questions and script for canvassers to use at any time.
  • The canvassing app is shared with volunteers a link which can be used immediately without having to instal any software
  • The color of a house changes immediately once it has been canvassed so it isn't contacted twice by mistake.
  • The information collected by canvassers can be exported for use in other outreach apps or used to update the voter file

Dynamic canvassing works with the voter file or any other contact list. Along with choice of survey questions and canvassing scripts.

Canvassing survey design

Fight voter suppression - register voters

Voter PAC fights voter suppression with voter registration

Voter PAC fights suppression with a Voter Outreach, Training, Education, and Registration (V.O.T.E.R) strategy.  Their goal is to register and rally the rising American Electorate – people of color and younger voters – in California’s Central Valley. The Central Valley lags far behind in voter registration and participation. Across California, voter registration averages almost 90% of eligible voters. In the Central Valley, the average is much less (70 – 80%). This is a great opportunity to bring more voters into the Democratic fold. Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties are home to about 1.5 million people – represented by three Republican Congressmen (Reps. Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, and David Valadao), Republicans outnumber Democrats by only a few thousand voters. 

Democratic Women of Kern County (DWK)

DWK works with the Kern County Democratic Central Committee, sponsors events to highlight local Democratic candidates and registers voters, phone banks, provides a platform for guest speakers and works for positive change in the community. Hortencia Cabral and Sharon Cohen with DWK deployed this canvassing system in a month with a tiny budget by using existing business apps.

The Fundamentals of Organizing

  • Start Where People Are At. The best organizing starts not with mobilizing, but listening. Always be listening, seeking to understand people’s most pressing struggles, greatest hopes, and what is front of mind for them.
  • Master the One-on-One. A good one-on-one meeting helps you understand someone’s path, their motivations, and what is keeping them from realizing their fullest potential. A conversation that starts with someone wondering why they even said “yes” to the meeting, turns into a gift — revealing things about themselves and society they had never seen so clearly until you, the organizer, came into their life.
  • Organizing is the process of creating a path for the still waking. We are not here to organize the converted. “We can’t be afraid to establish a base that is larger than the people we feel comfortable with. We have to reach beyond the choir and take seriously the task of organizing the unorganized — the people who don’t already speak the same language.” - Alicia Garza in The Purpose of Power. Our challenge is not that the choir is unorganized, but that the choir is too damn small.

Excerpted from the Fundamentals of Organizing newsletter & podcast by George Goehl

TakeAway: Canvass smarter to conduct surveys, register voters and increase voter turnout.


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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.