Utilizing Resources

Targeting is largely dependent on information: the more you have, the better you can identify your key voters and calculate how many votes are needed to make the impact you want.

Volunteers with ALLERT pair up to walk precinctsHowever, information resources are valuable only to the extent that they serve the goals of the project. The Native American Voters Alliance's first step in a voter engagement project, Bineshi Albert says, is to identify “what our objective is – not only for the year and for our program but the objective for the particular election that is going on – and then we go to the voter file, after we’ve formed our objectives.” The intentions articulated by your membership when you made the decision to engage in voter work coupled with the consensus reached by election organizers in the political context analysis stage, will serve as guides as you navigate the targeting process.

There’s a lot of information out there – but it’s not all created equal and the cost of acquiring some data may be greater than its benefit for your project. Before you incorporate data from any resource, analyze it critically: where did it come from, who collected it and above all, what does it really say about our constituency? Polls, especially, can present a number of traps to community groups, which we’ll discuss on the Polling Data page.

Data resources that may be useful:

  1. Your organization’s database
  2. Historical experience: research similar initiatives or voter turnout efforts in the area or demographic you’re targeting
  3. The “raw” voter file: the record of voting history kept by the state’s election board that will help you identify regular and infrequent voters, and may include voters’ addresses and phone numbers. You’ll learn more about the voter file on the following page.
  4. An enhanced voter file: companies that sell copies of the voter file may also offer an enhanced list with additional information about voters such as their age, race, religion, income and labor affiliation
  5. Census data: overlay the data on precincts or districts to develop a picture of an area’s demographic characteristics such as race, religion, size of households and income
  6. Recent polls: commissioning your own poll is probably not an option because, as Henry Serrano has said, they are “prohibitively expensive.” However, there's a good deal of polling data out there, but it must be used with caution.
  7. Allies’ databases
  8. Historical voting performance: a summary of voting trends that may be available from your state’s election board that can be combined with the voter file and census data to analyze an area or demographic according to factors such as party or candidate performance, voter turnout, registration vs. turnout, etc.