How a lack of data affects elections

The 2020 Presidential Debate (Photo by Clay Banks via Unsplash)

With technology rapidly advancing, we have never before had such easy access to data. But there is other important information that no one has thought to collect.

One important piece of data that is missing is updated voting information for canvassing. Canvassing is defined as the “systematic initiation of direct contact with individuals, commonly during political campaigns.” However, it’s not just used for political reasons. Canvassing can be done for many reasons such as grassroots campaigns, community awareness member drives and more.

Volunteers from campaigns knock on doors to contact people personally, but at times it can be difficult due to voting information that hasn’t been updated. This is an issue that greatly impacts the county and local candidates who need to make information more readily available.  

Miami-Dade County is the most populated county in Florida with a population of over 2.7 million people. Over 56% of its population is eligible to vote. This means that it is a major contender in determining whether or not the state of Florida goes blue or red elections.

With crucial decisions made in our country’s judicial and legislative branches, candidates more now than ever need access to potential voters. Missing data presents a significant issue for volunteers of candidates who go door to door to reach these voters and inform them of the policies that will be present on the ballot and the issues that each candidate is fighting for. Without canvassers, many potential voters are left in the dark about important issues that they may care about and will not know who is campaigning to represent them in government.  

The director of outreach for the organization Miami-Dade Young Democrats, Pablo Menendez, provides more insight on how this lack of updated data affects the community.

Menendez says, “We use Minivan to canvas. The app shows a map with a list of houses, and it shows the individual voters living in each household. The minivan list is based on the voting history, which is public information to look for potential voters and nonpartisan voters.”

Menendez also explained how difficult it can be for the canvassers themselves when going out to volunteer to give this information out. “Minivan has a lot of information but it is not always up to date, making it difficult to achieve our goals since people move all the time, or are deceased, or they’ve changed their party affiliation,” he said.

An article by the National Conference of State Legislatures explains how canvassers get the lists of residences that they visit to drop off literature about candidates and inform voters about the current policies that will be on their ballots. It says, “list maintenance is not a simple process, though, and there are several ways a voter’s registration may become inaccurate or ineligible.”

This means that when time comes for canvassers to go door to door with information, it becomes a lot more difficult to contact the registered voter when there’s cases of death, moving to another residence or change of party.

Additionally, the app canvassers use, Minivan, receives its information from NGP VAN, a privately owned American web hosting service and voter database used by the Democratic Party for various Democratic campaigns, fundraising, and other non-profit organizations by the Democratic Party. NGP VAN being a privately own service also makes it hard to gain and access certain data since it is not owned nor run by the government.

Although customer voter information is collected by customers who provided their information to the app, there is no updated information provided to canvassers who rely on the app for canvassing in different neighborhoods. This reasoning alone has made the app unreliable in certain neighborhoods and makes canvassing almost impossible to do.  

Canvassing is an important tactic needed to continue to make sure citizens are able to vote and are informed about their political party and policies that will affect them in the future. Many political corporations know how difficult canvassing can be, especially in a generation that doesn’t have much enthusiasm for voting.

When information is more readily available such as information about voting registration, the results can be promising. From 2016-2020, there was an increase of Black voters from 39% to approximately 45%. The country-wide spread of citizens promoting voting and canvassing was been one the main causes for increase.  

Isabella Naranjo is currently an undergraduate student at Florida International University who is currently studying to get her bachelor’s degree in Digital Communications and Media, with an area of concentration in design and photography. She hopes to one day work in the media and fashion industry as an artistic director and hopes to design campaigns that will be shown all around the world.  

Stephanie Harrigan is a senior undergraduate student at Florida International University. Her major is digital communication and media and she loves to produce and edit content for the digital world both in front and behind the scenes.