Building on Pam Leavey’s post about the Clinton year long organizational effort in Nevada, I know that as an experienced, and older, field general for smaller elections, that today’s organizer is more disciplined, data based and results orientated with real-time data reporting. Here is a tool that I don’t believe is in wide use that could change the game dramatically: Geographical Information System analysis.
For 3 years I have advocated a Graphical Information System based data-basing effort for Congressional districts. This will provide a series of visual ‘maps’ of the district down to the individual house.
When completed the visual result would, under interpretation, allow for more targeted efforts at registration, recruiting, canvassing and fund raising. This is also called ‘disambiguation‘. In other words, untangling the ambiguous nature of large amounts of data.
Geographical Information System (GIS) use was one of my primary subjects in the now inactive audio blog The Insurgent Political Campaign. (I’m making an effort to get the 5 hours of audio there transcribed, updated and edited.)
As far as I know, this specific information system technique has not been effectively used at any level. A numeric/textual form of deep data mining has been effectively used by Republican candidates, including George Bush, and may have first been used by Bill Clinton. I believe the HRC campaign is effectively using this textual form of deep data mining. Imagine if the information was even more specific.
The GIS, (graphical), form of deep data basing creates a very different, more easily understood result. Notice that in list of potential uses in the following Wikipedia explanation does not list ‘politics’.
A geographic information system (GIS), also known as a geographical information system or geospatial information system, is a system for capturing, storing, analyzing and managing data and associated attributes which are spatially referenced to the Earth.
In the strictest sense, it is an information system capable of integrating, storing, editing, analyzing, sharing, and displaying geographically-referenced information. In a more generic sense, GIS is a tool that allows users to create interactive queries (user created searches), analyze the spatial information, edit data, maps, and present the results of all these operations.
Geographic information science is the science underlying the geographic concepts, applications and systems, taught in degree and GIS Certificate programs at many universities.
Geographic information system technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, asset management, Environmental Impact Assessment, Urban planning, cartography, criminology, history, sales, marketing, and logistics. For example, GIS might allow emergency planners to easily calculate emergency response times in the event of a natural disaster, GIS might be used to find wetlands that need protection from pollution, or GIS can be used by a company to site a new business to take advantage of a previously underserved market.
Simply stated, GIS can be used to better understand the demographics, registration patterns, contribution patterns, volunteer participation and voting history of both of the district and the individual voter.
Information is power. Period. It allows for practical preplanned long term political action.
Yet the creation and presentation of a vast volume of raw information usually results in faulty interpretation or, perhaps, it may simply overwhelm the hapless researcher. Disambiguating the data into a visual format, tied to a deep database, can allow the researcher to better create visual interpretations of very specific inquires.
As mentioned in the Wiki, this is a new science being taught at many universities. Yet, at least at my level of understanding, it hasn’t been effectively used. Especially at the Congressional level in districts with difficult races this well-managed information could be invaluable. At the Presidential election level, it allows the targeting of essential primary states with even more specificity than the elections have today.
While this seems a technical article, imagine the power created when you have a map of detailing the residence of every voter, Democrat or Independent, along with election voting patterns. Imagine the targeted efforts to turn out the registered voter who hasn’t voted in the last three Congressional cycles. This is just one potential action that would be more effective as a result of a more powerful information set.
Practical preplanned long term political action is usually missing in challenger Congressional campaigns. GIS can be the foundation for creating a written campaign plan. Could that, and many more data-based actions, turn an election? Of course.
GIS is the next election tool. At a minimum, we need to recruit volunteer graduate students to help with closely contested and uphill Red District campaigns. Preferably, we’ll get good enough at fund raising to hire the experienced GIS professional. It could help seat more Democrats at the State and Federal level. (Comments and suggestions welcomed.)