Sunday, November 5, 2006

The GOP Voter Vault Knows More About You Than Santa Clause

They know when you are sleeping, they know when you’re awake, they know if you’ve been bad or good… well, you get the idea.

Since 2000, workers for the Republican Party’s “Voter Vault” have continuously compiled and updated data on 165 million Americans. Inspired by years of watching national labor unions gather information for the Democratic Party, the GOP followed suit and went electronic, taking advantage of bigger budgets and more committed people.

The GOP Voter Vault uses a point system that can tabulate if you’re a likely Republican or Democratic voter using certain demographic canvassing criteria. It's especially useful in determining if you might be easily persuaded either way politically, based on a sophisticated scoring structure.

Their database - mostly compiled overseas in India - comes from various sources of public information that can be legally bought in bulk on the web or are the results of tens of thousands of dedicated field workers gathering data. Statistics are culled from credit reports and ratings, magazine subscriptions and records traded between monthly and weekly publications, and even vehicle registrations. There are consumer polls that you’ve answered or mailed in for a coupon to get something free and they can even gain access to your buying preferences that those pesky discount cards record at the grocery store.

They have a list of every local evangelical church with a bus willing to pick up loads of little old ladies and men at nursing homes and retirement communities who otherwise wouldn’t go to the polls. These voters are tempted in exchange for stopping at the grocery and drug store on the way back. They also have lists of those same seniors that can’t get out, so they can send them absentee ballots to fill out using conveniently provided GOP voter guides and later will call to remind them to mail them back in.

They legally use public records as a base, such as voter registration logs. They know if you vote in all elections or just the presidential cycles. They also can tell from the “Voter Vault” the last time you registered to vote, for what party, and if you’re still eligible. If not they’ll give you a friendly reminder call to make sure you sign up.

Census figures give them the racial and financial makeup of your particular neighborhood down to the street, how much your house is worth, how many TVs you own, even to how many bathrooms you have. It's information that’s valuable to them to determine your character and how you’re likely to vote, based on data you’ve given freely to the U.S. government every ten-year census cycle.

That opinion canvasser that you talked to casually outside of the hardware store last week has probably sent your answers to them by now. Organizations as varied as the National Rifle Association Political Victory fund and the Pastor’s Network regularly canvas public opinion over the phone and in person then eagerly send it on to the Vault.

Public lien records tell them how much you still owe on your house, documents in your local town hall tell if you have a hunting or fishing license, sales-oriented records show what beer you like, or if you prefer Coke over Pepsi. They know your age, your sex, and sex preference, married or single, they know what sites you like to go to on the Internet. They know if you rent or if you own, if your kid is on a little league team, if your wife belongs to a bridge club, and when the last time was that you contributed to a charity or a political campaign.

If they’re really interested in you either negatively or positively (especially if you’re a candidate) they go into your criminal background as well.

Get the idea?

1984's proverbial “Big Brother” is blind in one eye and deaf in both ears compared to the GOP’s Voter Vault.

A savvy Republican staff worker with the right keystrokes in San Jose, California can go online and tell what time you’d prefer the local church bus in Toledo Ohio to pick you up and can give that driver directions to your house and then on to your local polling station. They can coordinate canvassers as to the most likely time you’ll be home to answer the phone or the door, too.

In a neighborhood of thousands of houses in central Alabama, a GOP staff member can generate a list sitting at a desk in Washington D.C. directing workers to each specific home on every block that they think will do the most good for their national or local candidates. They’ll also tell partisan foot soldiers which doors not to knock on, saving time and effort. With little or no exertion they can generate, distribute, and e-mail lists of talking points specific to each targeted household indicating what issues are important to each person that answers the door.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re a Democrat who likes to go hunting with your buddies; you’re a Star Trek fan; you have five kids and a new mortgage on your brand new home. You have just purchased a big SUV to haul the family around in, too. You favor controls on abortion but not an outright ban. You can expect a precinct worker to arrive at your door in a bright orange cap and tell you that his opponent is for gun control; he’ll nonchalantly complain about real estate taxes and warn how taxes on gasoline will skyrocket if you vote for a “tax and spend” Democrat. In casual conversation he’ll tell you that “they” are working to get rid of the tax deduction on that SUV, that they’re planning a partial-birth abortion clinic down the street and that his candidate alone will keep registered sex offenders out of your neighborhood and away from your kids.

Oh, and he’ll have two of his own kids in tow and an “I grok Spock” sticker displayed somewhere prominently on his car. He’ll send all of the kids, yours and his, into another room and quietly talk about how his opponent “allegedly” supports the “liberal homosexual agenda” and he absolutely will not talk about the Iraq war. He’ll remind you that the local terrorists vaguely have cells a few miles away and the only thing keeping them from attacking your family on your home turf is his Republican candidate.

If you even loosely agree with him within a day you’ll get mailings and e-mails custom designed to address only the issues you find important based on the notes he writes down the moment he leaves your door. Of course you will be too polite to say no to an offer of a few bumper stickers and a well-placed yard sign.

They’ll find out where you shop and include appropriate coupons for your wife with their mailings.

If you and your spouse work late, expect a call early in the morning to remind you to vote, even offering you that ride if you’re too tired to drive.

The polls may be mostly with the Democrats this election, but the Republican Vault may give them an edge that their opponents hadn’t planned on.

WARNING: Reproduction of this article is forbidden without the author's permission
© 2006 by Jet in Columbus

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