Location plays a fundamental role in defining citizen representation in our federal government. But no agency had ever created a nationwide, spatially-enabled GIS national election precinct data set that could be used as a tool for planning canvassing and voter outreach efforts. Map the Vote, working with data from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had explored options for creating a national precinct GIS map by acquiring voter information from local county agencies and then drawing precinct layers using standard GIS tools. But the costs and time required were prohibitive.
At the request of Map the Vote, Farallon Geographics developed a national election precinct dataset in GIS format. Farallon demonstrated that automated techniques used to create similar features (e.g., census blocks) could be applied to build and maintain a national election precinct dataset at a fraction of the cost of traditional GIS techniques. Using geodatabase technologies and spatial analysis algorithms, Farallon processed over 20 million voter records to produce election precincts datasets for key states. Farallon also created a process to complete a national dataset in the future. To ensure that the process was repeatable, Farallon worked closely with Map the Vote to define the spatial processing rules used to build the precinct layer so that each precinct could be automatically defined and validated. This eliminated the need for manual editing of the GIS data. An Oracle Spatial geodatabase and a suite of GIS desktop tools were used to automate the overall data storage, processing, and geometry validation necessary to develop the national election precinct map dataset in shapefile format.
Creating voter precincts using traditional GIS methods (digitally drawing precincts by hand) takes approximately one year per state. By automating the process, Farallon was able to complete each state in one day. This allows the progressive political organizations to cost-effectively microtarget and turn out the vote in key states for the 2008 Presidential campaign.