State Democratic Parties Revolt Against DNC Over Voter Data Plan

DNC chairman Tom Perez / Getty Images
DNC chairman Tom Perez / Getty Images
• December 6, 2018 4:04 pm


A Democratic National Committee plan to pool the party's voter data into one large database for the 2020 election is being met with fierce opposition by state parties and outside groups.

The DNC is offering a plan modeled on the RNC: a single, for-profit, private firm of all voter data that would allow Democrats to raise money for it without limits and potentially allow for all groups within the "progressive ecosystem," as Politico put it, to work with each other to generate even more voter information.

But state parties are balking at the idea of giving up such valuable data to the benefit of some national elites.

Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign manager, Robby Mook, told Politico the Democrats are facing a serious problem.

"We have a crisis," he said. "Republicans are going to have a major strategic advantage over us in 2020 if we don’t fix it."

State party officials who spoke to Politico had scathing remarks for DNC chair Tom Perez, as well as the new chief technology officer, Raffi Krikorian, who came to the party from Silicon Valley, and new chief executive, Seema Nanda; the latter two don't have campaign experience.

"I’m not willing to give up one of our most important tools to a group of people who have never even worked on a campaign before," South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson said.

"I think there are some concerns that are still out there and those concerns have to be addressed or those who are skeptical have to come up with an alternative," Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon said.

"We are always the last group of folks consulted even though we are the ones who are [building] the voter file," Washington Democratic Party chairman Tina Podlodowski said.

The proposal under debate would involve state parties licensing out their voter data to a trust, and no funders would be allowed on the board of trustees so there wouldn't be conflicts of interest. State parties, according to the report, were left wondering what they would get out of such an arrangement, while the national party is accusing the states of not thinking about the big picture:

Democrats "exceeded expectations with victories up and down the ballot in 2018, but if we’re going to do it again in 2020, we’ve got to embrace the next generation of cutting-edge technology and innovation," Perez said in a statement. "That’s what the data trust is all about: connecting everyone in the Democratic ecosystem and giving our candidates the data advantage they need to succeed."

But state parties expressed bewilderment that the national party is expecting them to cede some control of one of their key assets — for what they consider to be nothing in return. National Democratic officials, in turn, said the state parties were being selfish and not thinking about the broader cause.

"There’s definitely, ‘what’s in it for us?’ questions still there," said Valdez Bravo, a vice chairman of the Oregon Democratic Party.

Other Democrats were exasperated by the impasse itself — and the collateral damage it could do heading into the 2020 campaign — as opposed to the details of the plan.

"The logjam has to be broken on this because we need this in order to win," said Jim Roosevelt, co-chair of the DNC’s rules and bylaws committee and a longtime party official, who declined to take sides.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is already gearing up for a re-election bid and, even if he faces a primary challenge, won't face nearly as large a field as the Democrats will contend with in the 2020 cycle.

Trump's 2016 opponent, Clinton, blasted the party's data operation last year in the aftermath of her defeat, saying she got "nothing" from the DNC after she clinched the nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.).

"I mean it was bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong. I had to inject money into it, the DNC, to keep it going," Clinton said.