Voter Data is readily available from the Commonwealth Department of State for a fee of $20.00. We can thank Dr. Stephanie Singer, current Chair of the City Commissioners office, in part with assisting us in making this affordable through her lawsuit against the Commonwealth. Originally, the voter file export cost oodles of dollars, and was available only to those who had money to spend. Now, it’s within the reach of everyone.
Or so we might think.
Much like the campaign finance reports that candidates are required to complete at regular intervals, the format of the voter file as supplied by the Commonwealth through the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) is confusing at best. For each county, an applicant receives not one file, but four, and is tasked with the prospect of joining them together, which is beyond the grasp of most political activists.
It was almost beyond me. It took me darn near three weeks to figure it out, and I almost gave up. And I do this kind of thing for a living.
Using the Pennsylvania Political Campaign Management database (PPCM) which my company developed and distributes for free, one can import voter data from the four files of any county and parse them rather effortlessly. It takes a little while for the larger counties (with Philadelphia, for example, you are dealing with more than 1,000,000 records) but the voter file provides a wealth of information for those who do, such as party affiliation, date of registration, date of birth, voter histories, the political subdivisions in which a voter resides, addresses, some phone numbers — even gender if you’re lucky.
If you would like your own copy of the voter file, click here to download the form to request it from the Commonwealth Department of State. Note: the Department of State puts up a big front about confidentiality and what not, because they appear to be scared to death that the voter file, which is public information, is going to fall into the “wrong hands.” There is even a law against publishing the voter file on the Internet. I’m not sure if that’s enforceable — as one election lawyer put it, how do you violate someone’s privacy with public information?
HEY — YOU OUT THERE — STATE OFFICIALS! I’M ADVERTISING TO THE WORLD HOW TO GET THE VOTER FILE AND GIVING OUT FREE SOFTWARE TO THE MASSES SO THAT EVERYONE CAN USE IT! DOES THAT BOTHER YOU???
Doesn’t bother me a bit.