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Why Field Data is Crucial to Winning

How Votebuilder Helped the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Win Big in 2023

Coming into Bluebonnet as a former field organizer on congressional races, I knew the importance of knowing your field demographic before you hit the doors or pick up the phone prior to Election Day. Due to limited time and money, we need to choose who to invest in versus those who aren’t priorities for our resources, such as people who vote every election without fail or those who consistently vote Republican. But there are also people you need to turn out to the polls: those who vote every general election but don’t often turn out for a primary, those who just registered to vote, or the Independents who vote based on issue rather than party. Having an understanding of which regions and demographics you need to canvass to hit your target vote goal is essential to not wasting time, volunteers, or money.

When the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party (MCDP) of North Carolina asked me to utilize my field experience to build turfs — the little maps of whose doors you want to knock to talk to about the candidates — for their 2023 municipal election canvasses, I was thrilled to hop on such a project. This is not necessarily the sort of technical project that Bluebonnet Data fellows typically engage in; however, having a solid understanding of Votebuilder/VAN, the leading Democratic campaign tech tool, is essential to the progressive data movement. Using tools like VAN to manage the data of constituents — addresses, support scores, voting history — and voter contact is what actually helps us progressives win. Therefore, before canvasses launched in late September of 2023, I spent hours building voter universes for the parts of Mecklenburg County that we wanted to target. I broke down those searches into specific demographics whose votes we needed and split up those searches further geographically into neat little turfs of 20 households, the number that we calculated based on the number of volunteers, shifts, and weekends that we had before Election Day.

We decided to focus on specific regions of Mecklenburg that we deemed the most important for the municipal elections, including Cornelius, Huntersville, Mint Hill, Charlotte District 6, and Pineville. However, some of these regions had a large number of votes that fit the demographics we were looking for, and VAN only allows 30 turfs per map. Because our goal was 20 people per turf, there was a lot of splitting to achieve the results we wanted. Though this was time-consuming, the results of the field work that Bluebonnet supported were essential to MCDP’s success in 2023. Not only was it essential to the turnout of voters in the 2023 municipal election, but also crucial for setting up the infrastructure for the larger 2024 election.

The races that MCDP was supporting included several board of education, mayoral, and town commissioner races, as well as a bond referendum. Incredibly, Huntersville — a Republican-dominated region — was able to completely flip city commissioner and mayoral control to completely Democratic, which was a huge win. I was especially proud to see this since Huntersville was one of the largest areas I cut turf for, with 12 separate regions and almost 8,000 doors knocked. MCDP increased turnout by a factor of 60%, outperforming past Democrats by 16%. Additionally, all of MCDP’s endorsed school board candidates won, preventing conservative overreach on gender issues in public schools as well as stopping Trojan Horse candidates backed by conservatives. It was incredible to see the payoff of this field data work in the election results, and I’m ready to do it all again to win big in 2024, starting the work needed to support in the upcoming 2024 primaries.

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