The democrats’ voter file challenge
When running a campaign, political candidates rely heavily upon databases known as voter files, which include a list of voters and records of their voting frequency. These are often expanded to include demographic and consumer information, and voter outreach programs use these databases for targeting particular subsets of the voter population.
In 2007, the Democratic Party set up a unified national voter file once the vast majority of state parties signed agreements to subscribe to a joint voter file system and trade data with the DNC.
According to their contract with the DNC, the DNC owns and stipulates access to VAN’s customer data. New democratic campaigns will sign up as customers with VAN, both obtaining access to the DNC voter data, as well as putting forth its data contributions and updates, thereby promoting network effects. VAN now functions as a monopoly in the Democratic voter file space and has little incentive to improve its reportedly archaic user experience and security protocols. Furthermore, primary challengers to incumbent democrats are not allowed to purchase voter database access according to DPVA policy, or at least at higher rates with reduced access.