Friday, May 30, 2008

Voter Activation Network (VAN)

Beginning in 2002, the Democratic Party developed two databases -- DataMart, containing the records of 166 million registered voters, and Demzilla, a smaller database used for fund-raising and organizing volunteers. In February 2007, the DNC replaced these with the Voter Activation Network (VAN) database of voter research data and a web application use to access the data called VoteBuilder. Described as a "state-of-the-art nationwide voter file interface," the Web-based tool is designed to ensure that Democratic candidates from the national party to the state parties have access to the tools needed to help win elections.

VoteBuilder came from Voter Activation Network (VAN) of Somerville, Mass. VAN President Mark Sullivan got his start in politics working for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Sullivan recalled that up until 2001, databases of registered voters resided on mainframes and political campaigns had to buy back their own data from the vendors. So Sullivan developed the VAN software, which became the online data
management tool most widely used by Democrats and their allies.

"When we build a VAN for a state party, the party can make it available to every Democratic candidate in the state or any subset of Democrats they choose," Sullivan told CRM Buyer. "For one price, they make the most powerful tool in Democratic politics available up and down the ticket. So, while clients typically reach out to us in anticipation of a big, contested statewide campaign, state legislators and local officials usually become the VAN's biggest advocates."

Texas Democratic Party’s subscription to the DNC's Voter Activation Network PartyBuilder web application gives every county party organization in Texas a powerful decentralized neighbor-to-neighbor field tool that lets local activists access and use voter research data to canvass people within a few hundred yards of their house. Party Builder also allows authorized users such as Precinct Chairpersons to download and customize select, approved pieces of campaign literature. Eventually, this customizable content and distributed model will allow the Democratic party to deploy micro-targeted field campaigns at the neighborhood level.

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