I appeared on local NPR affiliate KUT Austin to talk about voter data and how political campaigns use it. Below is an excerpt from the story KUT posted on its website.
Brendan Steinhauser, a political strategist living in Austin, uses the state’s voter file all the time.
“The voter file is quite simply a list of voters who are registered to vote,” he explains. “You can you also obtain their voting history to see if they have voted in past elections.”
He runs political campaigns for candidates and non-profits across the country at Steinhauser Strategies. Steinhauser says he uses the file to figure out who to target when he’s trying to get votes for a candidate. For example, Steinhauser pulls up a list on his laptop he created for a statewide race. It’s a list of roughly 20,000 Asian-American Republicans.
“And it shows you the name, it shows you their address, their zip code, their phone number,” he says.
Steinhauser says this file mostly contains basic information, but everyone who uses this data agree to some rules.
“You can’t use the voter file for commercial purposes,” Steinhauser explains. “You can’t just spam people or try to use it for nefarious purposes. You do have to make sure you use it for political purposes – what it’s meant to be used for.”
Steinhauser argues people are actually handing over way more information to companies online. For example, he says information political strategists can get from Facebook is way more useful to campaigns. He says emails, which aren’t in the voter file, are also better for reaching out to voters who tend to move or stop using their landline after a while.
Brendan Steinhauser is a national political strategist focused on campaigns, media, and public policy.