Voter file? What’s that? Can I make it up as I go along?
O, young grasshopper you have much to learn!
It might seem a bit daft, but yes we do get asked these questions all the time. Your voter file is a hugely important part of any political operation. It is your currency in the campaign world and while you could start one from scratch you can probably purchase or obtain it from a governmental entity with a lot less hassle.
When using Ecanvasser, importing of your Voter File is one of the most critical parts to ensure you get the most out of what the product has to offer. For many campaigns, the more advanced aspects of the Voter File import are not relevant. Depending on the goals, and scope of your campaign, you may wish to consider some of the learnings here.
Most of the headings available within the Voter File upload process are self-explanatory but here we go through some of the language used in the upload process and the basics you need to understand.
Voter ID: including an official government Voter ID in your Voter File will allow you to upload new information on existing voters at a later date. Without a Voter ID, it is not possible to do this en masse. For more information, see the section on Merging Voter Files below.
Date of Birth: it is advisable to enter a D.O.B. rather than an age, or age bracket. You may well end up running a campaign again in years to come, D.O.B. ensures that your information will be up to date!
Precinct Name: Precincts are common electoral areas in the United States, in other jurisdictions the term may vary; however the use of data remains the same! It is worthwhile completing this if your campaign spans many electoral districts as it will help you to later segment your People Database.
Address: Your Address must be broken into at least three sections, though it may be broken into more if this is how you received your Voter File. The required fields are:
- Street Name: Can contain the bulk of the address information
- City/Town: Should be largest individual settlement contained in the address, generally what appears on an address above what appears in State/County
- State/County: Should be a State within the US or a County/Province outside of the US
Longitude/Latitude: if you wish, and have the relevant data available to you, you may use this, rather than having us Geocode the addresses for you.
Volunteer: Some of your team are also Voters, marking them appropriately may have advantages later on. For more information visit our dedicated article on Campaign Organization.
Deceased: it can be worth updating your Voter File under this heading, so as to ensure that needless, or intrusive, communications are not sent.
Raised Issue: in the course of your Campaign, you may assist some of your Voters with constituency work, it can be useful to have a record of all Voters that you have helped at some point.
New Election: Selecting this will allow you to create a column so as you can keep records of people’s voting history - if people have voted in the past, they’re more likely to vote in the future!