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Congressional Candidate Sarah Smith Denied Voter Data From Washington State Democrats

Image from @SarahSmith2018.

A few months ago, Raven Payne and I profiled Sarah Smith, a congressional candidate from Washington’s 9th district. Today, her campaign is voicing frustration over being denied VAN access and, furthermore, not even being provided the documentation to obtain the more expensive replacement. This could be explained by the fact that Smith is attempting to primary a Democrat who has held the seat for quite some time. Sarah Smith, in a press release sent via email from her campaign (dated 11/9/2017), explains:

The DNC, the WA Dems, and the future of our party is in the people. This needs to stop. We are the state that brags about Attorney General Bob Ferguson fighting tirelessly against Trump’s unconstitutional “bans”. We’re known for Rep. Jayapal, a strong progressive woman who never stops standing up for her beliefs. And yet here, in our beautiful state, we are trying to snuff out competition against the establishment.

To this date, Smith’s campaign has been denied access to VAN, a tool used by the Democratic Party to aggregate voter information. This data allows campaigns to make more efficient use of their time and, in theory, be more effective in voter outreach.

It’s the Smith campaign’s current understanding that “Candidates require endorsements from 51% of the Legislative Districts and the approval of the state Party Chair to gain access to VAN.” This rule essentially shuts the door on her campaign unless she can win the primary but how can she win the primary without voter data?

There is an alternative, albeit, more expensive, third-party voter data platform called TargetSmart. There is one caveat though, Smith’s campaign needs a letter from the Washington State Democrat Chair Tina Podlodowski that formally denies them access to VAN before they can purchase TargetSmart. The Washington State Democratic Party has yet to respond to any of inquiries of this matter from the Smith campaign. Sarah Smith explains the difficulty of the situation:

We are hamstrung into paying four times the amount for another third party tool. The Democratic Establishment is attempting to fold our campaign by forcing us to hemorrhage funds trying to secure voter data. This isn’t free and fair, this is one more strategy by the party to control who participates… and Rep. Adam gets all the benefit of this choice. I have one thing to say to our state party: Do better, be better, demand better.  We must protect the campaigns of every progressive challenger who decides to enter this race.

Not to be deterred, Smith proclaims that they have “never met someone like me, I’ll knock every door in this district myself if I need to. The more they push back, the more we push forwards.”

Written by Andre Roberge

Father, Husband. Went to school for philosophy (university of WA) and now I work for a train company -- Interests include Labor Law, TILA, Unions, Paid Family Leave, Healthcare, Philosophy of Science, Fantasy Football and Open Government-- Fanboy of The Take Down with Nick Nowlin and The Way with Anoa. Follow Andre on Twitter @SubvertingPower.

Andre Roberge is a Researcher and Writer for Progressive Army.


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  1. This is why the DNC hates progressives (like me): we fight against any establishment that treats the election system as its own personal fiefdom. Sure, we are closer to the Democratic Party than the GOP (shudder), but we find it difficult to stomach the party leadership. We have to fight the DNC, *and* the GOP, *and* libertarians. The more we can cast a spotlight on the shenanigans of the DNC the more likely the leadership will begin to act in a more charitable fashion.

  2. I hope she gets in there and wipes the floor with ’em, You too Jonathan, totally sick and tired of these establishment Dems, they just sit in there and idle, we need new blood in the DNC and run the old guard out, the DNC needs a new direction, new leadership and a fresh start.

  3. This is the mentality that gave us Trump. The DNC decided on Hillary irregardless of what the voters wanted. They will always fight for their established candidate over some one with progressive ideas.

  4. Your reporting is not correct. There are several vendors that will allow you to pay for Access to the Voter Activation Network seeing there are groups who are working for a candidate that uses the VAN. I worked for one of them and we first had the Vendor America VOtes and then we switched to WDP without working for a candidate or having an initiative on the ballot.

  5. Not a expert but can someone tell me if there is a date in which all candidates are eligible to sing in to and collect informantin from the Democratic voter information network the VAN ?

  6. Smith’s chutzpah is hilarious! Her claim to knock on every door if she has to is actually highlighting why “they” are shutting her out – no one can possibly do that in the time given.

    It will take her yearS to knock on approximately 200,000 doors, let alone ask anyone to vote for her. A targeted list saves candidates trouble and time.

  7. It all sounds good in theory, but if you manage to primary an incumbent Dem, and you then lose the general to an (R), then you’ve actually set us back not one step but ten. The 1st (and for TODAY, the *ONLY*) priority should be the removal of the Orange Fascist occupying the White House.

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Congressional Candidate Sarah Smith Denied Voter Data From Washington State Democrats