Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Do the Liberals have a voter database?

During the last election, my partner got a call from the Liberals. The caller gave the traditional spiel about how great the Liberals were and how great a change of government would be, and then asked her whether he could expect her support for Edmonton-Centre Liberal candidate Jim Wachowich on October 14th.

All of which would be par for the course if it weren't for the fact that my partner actually lives in the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. So she proceeded to tell the caller that her Liberal candidate was Claudette Roy, not Jim Wachowich, and they had a bit of back and forth about that before the bewildered Liberal said he had to check something and hung up.

That story ran through my mind back when I read Calgary Grit's Building the Big Red Machine post, and this part of it has been nagging at me ever since then:

Which brings me to my next point – get an f’ing database. The Tories have pages upon pages (bytes upon bytes?) of information on donors, supporters, and voters – the Liberals have trouble sending out automatic renewals for party memberships. The Dave Taylor renewal document I linked to earlier this week made sense – every time a member signs up for the party you should find out what issues they care about and any other information about them you can. The more you know about voters, the easier it is to tailor your message to them. In the same vein, the more you know about your members, the easier it is to target fundraising messages to them.
I am misreading this, right? CG must be saying that the Liberals need to get the kind of database that the Tories have, which includes issues and demographics. Not that the Liberals need to get a general database--the kind with a record of who's voted for them over the years and where they live and whether they're members. They do have that, right?

Because if the Liberals have actually been running elections with no central database at all, then I'm astonished that they've won anything, ever. And yet I don't understand how the call to my partner about a candidate in a completely different riding could have happened if they do have one.


Anonymous said...

My experience with the NDP database suggests that the story you relate happens more than one might think.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Really? Huh. I'm trying to figure out how that could happen, and drawing a blank. Failure of imagination, I guess.

leonsp said...

Bad data in the database. Databases are not omniscient. They are populated by people through tools, maintained by people through tools, and accessed by people through tools. People or tools or both can screw up at any point in that process.

Maybe the original data entry clerk chose the wrong riding from a dropdown. Etc.

Anonymous said...

I remember that I would frequently get phone calls from the Liberal Party asking if I was voting for the "Liberal candidate." The key issue is that they didn't know who the candidate was, so they asked "liberal candidate" in the hopes that I would know.

So, no database, actually.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


No database at all? That simply can't be right.

I mean, if they really don't, then the question right now shouldn't be why they got only 77 seats in the last election, but how the heck they were able to win the ones that they did get.

Denny said...

Ya, based on my experiences with NDP Vote in the last provincial and federal elections, I wouldn't be surprised if this happen even if they had a database.
I would constantly run into people who had moved out of the riding (since phonenumbers often go with you) or would call a number to find that it was now someone else's number.
In areas that had high turnovers for residents, such as right around the University, I would find while foot canvasing that there were whole blocks of people where the names of who lived where didn't match up.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Hey, Denny!

The kinds of database errors that result from people moving around are to be expected, but they're quite different from what I'm talking about. I've lived in the house I share with my partner since 1999, you know? I suppose the phone number could have belonged to someone in Edmonton Centre before that, but it was an awfully long time ago.

West End Bob said...

During the federal election and making calls from the NDP database in Vancouver Centre we encountered that situation frequently, also. When I was doing calling for the provincial by election, however, I did not experience that.

(Batted 50/50, BTW, IP. :) )

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Which situation are you talking about? There are a couple of different situations under discussion here.

Curmudgeon-at-Large said...

If you follow the daveberta blog, there is currently a discussion there about whether one of the Alberta Liberal leadership candidates is in fact using the Alberta PC database.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I do read Dave, yeah--but that only tells me that the Alberta PCs have a database, not whether the federal Liberals do.

Ben (The Tiger in Exile) said...

Being the default middle-ground option breeds complacency and laziness.

I mean, look at what happened to the party once big corporate donations were banned.

If they had a database, they wouldn't have the fundraising problems they have.

calgarygrit said...

The Liberals kind of have a's just not accesible to the people it should be, when it should be, and it doesn't contain everything it should.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Thank you! That makes much more sense.

Anonymous said...

Example of bad info in databases:

Every election I get two voter registration cards. One for my riding and one for the riding next door. Bruce only gets one, but it's for the riding next door.

The reason is that we are very close to the boundary line for the riding, and whoever inputs the data forgets that 800 is the boundary at 840 is on the other side of it.

This whole area is apartment buildings and condos - I wouldn't be surprised if a whole lot of people were voting in the wrong ridings, based on being mailed the wrong voter registry cards (and they not being high enough information people to realize that the card they received might have the wrong polling station on it).

I phone every time we get the wrong cards, but it has yet to be solved.