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The Republican National Committee is following the lead of the Democratic National Committee in quietly proceeding with a plan to share its voter file with independent groups that agree in return to modernize and augment the precious list.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has led the charge to allow outside groups access to the voter file, despite the objections of several RNC members who have spoken to the press. Politico quotes
some members saying that once the list leaves the building, the data will no longer be proprietary. The fear is that RNC voter data could fall into the hands of those that do not have the party’s interests at heart or be used by groups that are traditionally allied with Republicans but occasionally endorse and assist Democrats, such as the National Rifle Association.
An additional fear is that the outsourcing of the voter file will further dilute the power of the deeply indebted RNC. According to this logic, outsourcing will make the party a secondary destination for candidates and donors behind independent, non-party groups such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Republican lawyer James Bopp’s newly formed Republican Super PAC.
that several prominent Republicans started the ball rolling towards sharing the voter file as early as March. Among the Republicans pushing for the new arrangement are Rove, former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, and Barry Jackson, a chief aide to House Speaker John Boehner.
Voter lists are a key resource for both parties, but they have handled them somewhat differently in recent years. The DNC began to incorporate the work of outside entities, in particular the Democratic data management firm Catalist, in the process of modernizing its voter list after the re-election of President Bush in 2004. Catalist’s database was originally compiled by the pro-Democratic group Americans Coming Together, while NGP VAN provides the management software for Catalist’s database.
Debra Deshong Reed, a spokesperson for Catalist, declined to discuss the details of the firm’s arrangement with Democratic committees and progressive groups, but said that the idea that the DNC voter list has been “outsourced” is a bit misleading. “We compiled our own voter file from publically available records across the country,” says Reed. “We have never had access to the DNC file. We have sold them our database files to supplement their capabilities.”
Reed adds that Catalist’s arrangement with the DNC has had no impact on the relevance of the party as the definitive Democratic brand or as a fundraising organization. “The DNC serves a very important and vital function,” says Reed. “There is absolutely a role for everyone in servicing both candidates and the progressive community.”
Roger Alan Stone, the CEO of Advocacy Data, a D.C.-based nonpartisan e-mail marketing and political data firm, believes that regardless of what the RNC does, the era of the two parties having a monopoly on good voter file information is over.
“The genie will not go back in the bottle in part because of the Help America Vote Act, which is the federal law requiring states to standardize, computerize, and centralize their voter information,” says Stone. “It is not the era of thirty years ago where everything was on paper in each county and someone had to Xerox that and keep it on hand.”
Stone also rejects the concern that sharing voter file data with outside groups will hasten the RNC’s slide into irrelevance. “Their influence will not depend on the voter file as much as restoring their reputation for competence and the ability to handle money,” he says.
Multiple sources, who declined to be identified, confirmed to C&E
that Republican consulting firms have been engaged by the RNC to work on the preliminary stages of the voter list modernization effort. While it is possible that the project may not go forward, it is clearly in the early stages of development.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at
C&E. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org