Republican National Committee to build platform to share voter data

Chris Moody
Political Reporter
The Ticket
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (Reuters)

In an effort to sharpen its digital arsenal, the Republican Party is building a platform with outside groups that will give GOP vendors, campaigns and committees access to its massive warehouse of voter data, Yahoo News has learned.

The ambitious plan from the Republican National Committee to make the GOP more competitive in future elections—spurred by Mitt Romney’s bruising loss and the data-mining techniques that helped Democrats gain its technological edge—will provide select groups with access to terabytes of data with which to build apps and software to better mobilize individual voters and analyze political behavior.

The RNC’s plan, acquired by Yahoo News, will provide Republican organizations with "direct access to data through APIs” to groups that "are building or offering apps in the GOP campaign marketplace." (An API, or application programming interface, is a way for a company to allow others to access its internal data.)

In effect, the RNC hopes that by doing what Apple does with its mobile operating system, developers will help build the equivalent of an internal GOP app store.

"The goal is to foster more innovation and creativity on the GOP side as well as help generate better data for everyone," the RNC action plan reads. "We want to lead by example—we want every campaign, GOP group, committee to make data a priority."

The idea to create a shareable central data system grew from a set of recommendations provided by a working group of veteran Republican strategists who have spent the months since the November election on an audit of RNC's efforts in 2012.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus plans to release details of the report—what the RNC calls "The Growth & Opportunity Project"—next week in Washington, D.C. The New York Times reported this week that the RNC is taking major steps to integrate data into all of its departments, with plans to hire a new chief technology officer to oversee that process.

During the presidential election last year, Democrats invested heavily in data-mining techniques. President Barack Obama's campaign built its own data platform, which allowed it to pinpoint with amazing precision the voters needed to win the national election.

Republicans, however, had less luck putting their data into effective action. The Romney campaign, for instance, suffered a severe digital meltdown on Election Day with its get-out-the-vote app called Orca, built to mobilize voters in areas with low turnout. The app failed to function properly, which effectively left thousands of campaign volunteers across the country without the ability to share local data with the campaign.

The new data-sharing project is part of a larger effort to better use the party's information and, hopefully for Republicans, avoid similar catastrophes in the future.

Below is the full RNC point-by-point action plan, provided to Yahoo News: