Using GIS for Election Campaigns

Blog Post created by webmapsolutions on Sep 1, 2014

GIS is a technology which is location focused. It provides location intelligence and better, more intuitive ways to visualize data. Maps are at the heart of how GIS systems present data. Maps are in essence pictures, our brains are wired to process information presented as images more easily than lists of figures in spreadsheets. Google maps showed the power of interactive maps. Pull out your mobile phone or tablet, discover best routes for getting around town. View markers of the map denoting points of interest. Tap the marker and see descriptions, and images of the museum, or coffee shop represented by the marker. Behind the scenes very powerful software is processing this location based data. Allowing not only ways to collect and view data on a map, but do any number of complicated searches and queries.

Data is usually related by relationships; this campaign worker is based out of this office. GIS relates data by location; this voter in this congressional district. This changes how we both store and interact with data. Since election are inherently geographic in nature. GIS is the perfect technology to use for planning, coordinating, and analysing election campaigns. The campaign data is stored centrally for access across the organization, access to both office and field based staff using PC’s or mobile devices respectively. Visualization and analysis anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

In this post we will look at using GIS for election campaigns.

Using GIS for Election Campaigns

GIS for Election Campaign Planning

At its core GIS provides location intelligence. The technology can answer a range of location based questions, and display results in intuitive ways via maps. Since elections are inherently geographic in nature, GIS provides key tools to help with election planning. For example:

* Finding concentrations of likely voters or supporters for more efficient targeting
* Search and display by a set of criteria eg. show on a map all 2014 Primary Voters by district.
* Search, filter and display eg. show on a map all 2014 primary voters who voted in the last 3 elections or show only hard democrats.
* Spatial query eg. selecting a group of voters, by drawing a square on the map, will provide a voter summary. Maybe the number of voters selected, average distance between voters, total number of hard Republicans in this group, or number of perfect voters.
* Identifying best locations for candidate events.

As field based staff use mobile GIS apps, field directors will be able to see the progress of sign placement operations, volunteer recruitment, and literature distribution. They will also be able to see the location of field workers while they are interacting with voters and view responses in real time. Unit and district chairs could use these the data recorded in GIS systems for mass e-mails, the content being related to the voters district or location. Task lists could be created and posted for party or campaign employees, allowing them to record their progress.

Mobile GIS for Election Canvassing and Walk Lists

Political canvassers spend a key part of their time out talking to voters. Often they are supplied with a walk list. Mobile GIS provides markers on a map showing canvassers the location of target households on their walk list. A mobile GIS app can also provide shortest route to help move from one household to the next.

Mobile GIS provides ways for canvassers to collect information on voter feedback. In the same way as we later describe with polling station interviews. Household interviews can be represented as a point on the map, the content of the interview stored as so called map point attributes. So the answers to questions, comments and images (taken with the mobile phone or tablets camera) can be collected and shared with campaign headquarters. That is potentially very powerful for this and future elections.

Using GIS for Election Coordination and Phone Campaigns

Since GIS is focused on location, it is the perfect tool to help coordinate election campaign field staff, campaign offices, candidate events and phone banks. All successful election campaign require careful coordination. Phone banks are often crucial. GIS can help develop call lists based on location, voter past behavior, demographics. Phone banks help motivate voters to vote on election day, and provide follow up to direct mail campaigns.

Using GIS for Political Campaign Sign Placement

Choosing the best locations for election campaign signs is important. The goal is to find the best locations in terms of traffic and demographics. If your campaign is targeting certain voters, it is key that these voters see your signs. GIS can provide the analysis to discover the best locations for signs. Sign placement can then be recorded. Images of the location and competing signs taken and stored.

GIS Data Collection for Polling Station Exit Interviews

Exit polls are very important on election day. Often these relate to election result prediction. But increasingly, recording problems at polling stations including voter intimidation, is becoming important. Many organizations are conducting volunteer driven interviews outside polling stations with voters. Recording interview location, voter response, images of ID cards and polling station problems such as lack of handicapped parking. Mobile GIS is being used to collect exit interview data. This data is helping to prevent the disfranchisement of voters.

Post Elections Analysis with GIS

All political parties will now be able to visualize their campaign efforts on a map with much better results. Looking back at any campaign requires reflecting on the data used to organize and plan the campaign. With all campaign data stored in one authoriative source: a GIS, allows campaign managers to review and learn for future campaigns. GS provides the data and tools to conduct such post election analyses.

As the November 2014 election season comes around. It would behoove many election campaigns across the country to start leveraging GIS. Given the geographic focus of elections, GIS provides political and non profit organizations new and powerful ways to conduct successful campaigns.

Contact us for more information.