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, we can still facilitate a merge, but it certainly helps. You can visit here for more information on merging or updating voter files.
First & Surname: these are compulsory fields within Ecanvasser, and are how you will distinguish different voters within the same household, or search for specific voters. That said, if you are using a data file such as property register, simply add two additional columns with generic information - we recommend:
- First Name: Voter
- Surname: 1, 2, 3, incrementing with each row in your spreadsheet.
Middle Name & Suffix: During the import process, Middle Name is simply appended to First Name, and Suffix to Surname.
Gender: Can be imported as either Male/Female or M/F
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! British or US formats will import, including if you opt to use written months.
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
We provide various different columns due to the differing manner in which people have files. As such, some columns may not be necessary for you. These additional columns are either optional, as they may not apply in all instances, or they are used to construct information regarding Street, as below:
- Unit Type & Number: optional information regarding multiple household addresses. For example, Apartment/Lot/Suite/Flat #'s. If you opt to use both, this information will simply be stitched together, for example if you had one column with 'Apt.' and another with '5'. If your files contains a column with this information unified you can select only Unit Number without consideration for Type.
- House Number: the street/door number of an address. If your Street column begins with a number (with no letter attached) Ecanvasser will automatically move it into the House Number column
- Zip: where appropriate (in the US, including Zip+4 is optional - you may want to consider if you will later want to filter on the level of Zip or Zip+4)
- Precinct Name & Number: 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 Voter Database. If you choose to upload both of these, Ecanvasser will merge the information together. As such, if you wish them to be searchable separately, you may wish to choose to import one, or multiple, as Custom Fields.
- Street Type & Direction: for users whose files contain broken street information. For example, if your file contains Lilac Crescent North, you would simply select Street, but your file might have those three clauses broken into Street Name/Type/Direction - importing using these additional fields will simply stitch the information together.
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. Geocoding is usually completed within 12 hours, but can take a day or so. As such, if you have the information available this can save you a little time getting started.
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.
Party: this field is for tracking what party a voter is aligned to. It appears prominently within the app for your canvassers attention.
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! It is recommend to title the election with the year and election type.
You can learn a bit more about how Custom Fields work here. That said, something that may be useful to bear in mind at this point is that if you choose to import a field as a Text field, and then once the import has completed you change it to a Multiple Choice, Ecanvasser will automatically generate the options based upon those present within the file.