Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Honeymoon is Over

Again, congratulations to Randy Pullen for winning the Chair, now its time to revisit one of the pledges he made during the race.

Theoretically, the Voter Vault is a good idea. What could be better than collecting data on each potential registered Republican voter in order to maximize their interest and thus turnout. Sounds good, no?

The problem is that the current Voter Vault model is fatally flawed, and cannot really be "fixed."

I'll admit that there are many things on this blog that I play by ear, after all it would be impossible to be an expert about all things covered here. That is why we are trying to include others with extended and recognized expertise. Customer Relationship Management on a large enterprise level is actually an area where I have years of experience and have earned a salary. Moving the principles of CRM to voter databases are just about a one-on-one relationship.

The major problem with the current system is that the data is gathered and prepared at the top of the organization and pushed down to the bottom or "voter interfacing" portion of the party. This is entirely backwards. For the data to be useful, timely, and relevant it needs to be generated at the voter-interfacing level and pushed on up the chain. Are we to believe that someone sitting in Phoenix looking over past voting charts is going to be able to give much information about Steve Jones in St. David to his PC, that his PC would actually find useful? I would bet, however, that Steve Jones's PC would be able to pass information the other way that would help get Steve Jones out to vote. Do we know how Steve gets his information about the election, by what method he likes to be contacted, what his hot button issues are, who he talks to among his Republican neighbors, his propensity to volunteer or donate, or even if he lives at the current listed address? I'll bet his PC knows, or could easily find out.

Now obviously, not every PC is this active or helpful, but much of that is because they haven't been given this type of specificity to direct them, or this direct of a mission. Give them a list of voters to contact, tell them what is needed, and I bet most would perform admirably.

For all of us who made phone calls to disconnected numbers and called the same individual with the same message for the 13th time, you can understand that the Voter Vault system is very inflexible and does not correct itself easily. After all, the top of the organization generally overrides end user feedback. It's a good idea that is implemented poorly, and will never be "fixed" until rethought from the foundation.

Additionally there have been many complaints about "tight control" of the database, meaning that some candidates or counties can be frozen out from using the database. With the "bottom up" modeling, access is virtually guaranteed by the open source nature of data collection. If the state party does not cooperate with the local parties, they have the means to cut the state party out of the loop and use their own data. I doubt it would ever come to that, but it is a good check and balance. It also places responsibility and accountability to the district and precinct level. If your district generates useful and accurate data, it would be easier to justify state funds in your direction.

I would implore Randy Pullen and the State Party to rethink plugging a lot of resources into the already waylaid Voter Vault system until these concerns can be addressed. I suspect that the Democratic strategy is more along the lines of what I have laid out, and it would give them a significant advantage if we keep constructing more "buggy whips".


Anonymous said...

I used VV in WA State during the 2003-2004 cycle and it was a great tool for us.

The national party does provide info, but it can also be input at the PC level (for their own Precinct, of course).

In WA state, it was a very effective because it allowed us to ID voters & voters' issues so that they could be targeted correctly by both local & state campaigns...and we were all on the ame page.

To be most effective, the flow of info is both ways...top-down & bottom-up.

I'd urge Pullen to get VV updated with correct voter lists now and have the PC's get to work on ID'ing the voters so that the micro-targeting can begin.

Framer said...

Indeed, do not get me wrong, Voter Vault is better than nothing. The voting lists need to be provided as a starting pont obviously.

It's just that to keep ahead, we need to move beyond voting lists and polling. Building the lists from the bottom up would not only provide better information, but would strengthen atrophied grassroots. Democrats are going this direction via using the web to build virtual communities and attract funds and voters that way, this enables Dean's fifty state plan to work. The guy may be a nut as a candidate, but his technical x's and o's are solid.

We aren't really in a position to compete either online, or with a blue state (or precinct) strategy at this point. We need to play to our strength, and that is the local neighborhood PC relationships. Where they NEED the internet, we have the person to person relationships, or we should have.

It's funny how the needed "technology" is just enabling what has always been there. Process always trumps technology.

It just seems that Voter Vault is a method that cleans up the supposed "messiness" involved with gathering information from the grassroots. I am quite certain that this is the way it has been lately implemented.

Bruce P. Murchison said...

I am using the County Voter database to identify potential PCs, those who vote religiously. Hopefully I will be able to recruit a fair amount. Considering how few we have, any gains will be good. The data on these disks are fairly accurate. Pushing the info up to Phoenix will definitely help, especially if each legislative district can commit to studying the info and adding to it before it is sent.