OC-Tech: Unlocking the doors to Political Power

<p>I just got home from Boston via the Chinatown Bus and figured I would post up a short blog about the session that I moderated. </p> <p>The idea behind the session was to have a discussion about campaign data solutions. By campaign I am referring not only to political campaign, but legislative/advocacy campaigns that require outreach to citizens. With me on the panel were BobLelievre and Raj Singh. Bob and I have crossed paths in the past when I was at ACORN and he was providing tech support to ACORN in Boston and Project Vote. So Bob is now the CTO for [l:http://www.projectvote.org|ProjectVote] and is working on voterfile stuff.</p> <p>Raj is a gis and systems guy. He talked about GIS and mapping and provided a bunch of [l:http://web.mit.edu/rajsingh/www/projects/opensourcegis.html|resources] on the subject of GIS and mapping.</p> <p>I talked about [lk:advokit.net|AdvoKit] and tried to demonstrate it just a tiny bit (but that didn't go so well i have to admit, i hadn't logged in to that install in a while). Just to recap some facts that I mentioned:<br /> I worked with 4 campaigns that used Advokit. 3 of them won their elections, one lost by 18 votes.<br /> AdvoKit is Open Source. It will be ported over to the [lk:drupal.org|Drupal Framework] (and become a module) [lk:CivicSpacelabs.org|Civic Space] is a distro of Drupal. AdvoKit will work also with the CiviCRM project. This is all very exciting. </p> <p>I talked a bit about applications for mapping in the context of a campaign, like giving a vol a walking map, or mapping your supporters, or mapping your target, or mapping to assist targeting, and Raj talked about this too. GIS allows you to visualize spacially your data (voters lets say) with other data (like census lets say). I showed this website that i refer to as [l:http://www.paulrademacher.com/housing|Google Maps meet Craigslist Housing]. It is only a matter of time before this kind of functionality is added to CRM or VCM (voter contact management).</p> <p>I also mentioned some low hanging fruit in the mapping department, like [lk:maps.google.com|Google Maps] and [l:http://www.microsoft.com/streets/default.mspx|Microsoft Streets and Trips] during one campaign I used streets and trips to plot out poll site van routes on election day, it was very easy. Other gis applications that were mentioned included [lk:http://www.caliper.com|Maptitude] and [lk:http://www.esri.com|ESRI] products. See [l:http://web.mit.edu/rajsingh/www/projects/opensourcegis.html|Raj Singh's resource guide for more info]</p> <p>Bob talked about how the data has changed in the 17 years that he has been in the business, from getting voterfiles on tape to data storage and more. We talked about the comparative benefits of a desktop solution to an online one: smaller campaigns don't need the bells and whistles (and added tech skill and expense) of an online solution like AdvoKit. I mentioned the security issues with making data available online for distributed campaiging. The importance of properly credentialing volunteers (permissions to access and change data). See a future post on data security and security culture.</p> <p>Some of the questions raised during the session involved cost of the different solutions, acquiring data for voterfiles and for mapping, the skill level necessary for deploying advokit and the server specs for advokit. </p> <p>After the session some folks came up to me and asked about some specific projects. One guy from DC asked about easy ways to attribute electoral district information to an existing voterlist (see an upcoming How To clean your data and match it to voter data on the cheap).</p> <p>So that is about it.</p>