When the Democratic nominee for president in 2004 courts Iowa voters, he will have at his disposal the most extensive and detailed profiles of voters ever assembled in the state’s history.
The Iowa Democratic Party’s massive computer database of 1.8 million voters is so detailed that it allows candidates to target people based on their specific voting history and pet issues, such as abortion or the environment.
“It revolutionizes grassr-oots campaigning,” said Mark Daley, spokesman for the state party.
Ronald A. Faucheux, editor of Campaigns & Elections Magazine, said while other state parties — including the Republican parties in Georgia and Colorado — are developing similar databases, he’s not aware of any as advanced as Iowa’s.
The foundation of Iowa’s database is the basic voter rolls compiled by the Secretary of State’s office. The additional — and most valuable — information was compiled through interviews with mostly independent voters conducted by more than 160 staffers around the state during the past three years.
The canvassers went door-to-door interviewing people and tapping the information into specially-programmed Palm Pilots. Each night, the information was uploaded from the Palm Pilots to a central database available to anyone with a password and access to the Internet.
Still in its early stages, the database proved crucial in last November’s election, Mr. Daley said.
In a year when Republicans dominated nationally, Democrats won seven of Iowa’s eight statewide elections.
“For the first time in Iowa history, a Democratic governor and a Democratic senator were elected on the same day,” Mr. Daley said. “We were able to reach all these people with the click of a button.”
So successful was the effort in the 2002 election that state Democratic parties across the country have begun compiling similar databases. And last month, Iowa Democrats came to Washington to discuss their strategy with national party leaders.
Realizing its value, six of the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination — Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Florida Sen. Bob Graham — have shelled out $65,000 each for access to the database.
In addition to basic information such as a voter’s mailing address, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, the database also includes added information such as a person’s voting history and specific information about issues of importance to the voter.
Purchasers not only pay a lump-sum for access, they also must continuously update the database with any new information they learn along the way.
“That’s what makes the database so valuable,” Mr. Daley said.