Building Capacity, Building Power

The Praxis Project has received funding to make voter registration data accessible online.

This wiki page is being created to shape a proposal for how to do that.


Voter registration data is public data that should be made freely available to everyone equally. At the moment, even where the data is free, it is in widely disparate formats and extremely difficult to query or import into an existing database.

The goal of the project is to support grassroots organizing by providing address information of registered voters to groups that can use that information to help strategically plan organizing campaigns.

In addition, the implementation of the project is itself an organizing project. Getting, parsing, importing and maintaining voter registration data for the entire country is an enormous task.

Efforts have been made to approach this problem in a traditional/capitalist way (Jouse: please fill in!), however, that approach has done little to realize the bigger vision of truly publicly accessible data.

An alternate approach to the logistical problem is to build the project from the ground up as an open, participatory process. By building the project in this manner, we can build a team of volunteers to maintain it, much like popular free software projects are maintained.


The key to implementing the project in an organizing fashion is to make it completely free and open:

  • No access restrictions to the data - full read access to everyone
  • Separation the project into inter-changing pieces to help keep it decentralized:
    • Database: one database the holds all the information. Direct read-only access is available to anyone on the Internet. We would encourage anyone with a server that can handle the load and size of data to mirror the data to help reduce load
    • User interface: we would write one web-based user interface, but not enforce it as the only user interface. We would encourage others to write alternative user interfaces and allow them to access the database.
    • Import scripts: until the law passes enforcing a standard data format for voter data (Josue: please fill in!) we will need scripts for each region to import data into our standard data format
  • Open source software: all software used to drive the project is freely released
  • Organize a series of national trainings and coding sprints


Here are some proposed broad steps:

  • Setup the infrastructure. It's important that the project start from the ground up in an open, web-published environment. Starting with a wiki, ticket tracking system, and publicly archived email list would be a good start.
  • Initial public meeting: Draw a national group of organizers and technologists to a face-to-face meeting to set a common political agenda for the group and the initial technical specifications for the project. All participants (regardless of tech level) will participate in both processes.
  • Research: getting the right data model will save a lot of time in the long run. Based on the vision and technical requirements, make decisions on how the first implementation will look.
  • Initial implementation: Build out the database with a single source of data. Create the first user-interface. Test. Debug.
  • Develop documentation on using the system and instructions to developers on how to import their data.
  • Organizing series of workshops nationally - the draw will be organizers and technologists - with a focus on: * building the team supporting the project, getting new users of the system, and encouraging techies to import data from un-represented regions and commit to updating data over the years.




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Last modified 12 years ago Last modified on May 22, 2008, 1:46:39 PM