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This tutorial we will step you through the mapping process in North Carolina. The way we have set these maps up dramatically simplifies your targeting task. For anyone with moderate computing skills, mapping is not complicated or hard to learn, but it does take some time. You should set aside 25-30 minutes to complete this tutorial. To get comfortable targeting voter registration drives, we suggest that you complete this tutorial more than once.

We provide our clients with two ways to target potential registrants: (1) Using interactive maps that identify neighborhoods holding high concentrations of non-voters; and (2) using a spreadsheet (Excel) linked to map sets (attached to this email). Both of these paths lead to maps of discrete neighborhoods, precincts, or Census block groups that you select and contain neighborhood blocks with high but varying estimated concentrations of not-registered persons. The trick is to focus neighborhood canvassing on the blocks with the highest estimated numbers of not-registered individuals. That is precisely what these map sets are designed to help you accomplish.


Using the Targeting Hierarchy: Go to the North Carolina Get-Out-The-Vote Maps page and then scroll down a bit and click on Unregistered African-Americans in North Carolina. This will produce a statewide map of unregistered Blacks 18+ by county in North Carolina. Targeting is all about narrowing down the number of precincts (or, Census block groups) you have to look at and select from. Click on the "Find" box and type Greensboro in at "Place" and NC in the "State" box. Click on the "Find" button. You are now looking at an 11mile wide overview map of central Greensboro displaying the estimated Black voting age population not registered by precinct.

To get familiar with the tools at your disposal for exploiting this interactive map, hit the "Help" button at the bottom of the page. This will open a window that explains how to use each of the function tabs or buttons surrounding the map. Go back to the map and experiment with each of the buttons. On the left you will see a window labeled "Compare Maps." You can think of this as a table of contents for a book of maps. Each map thematically displays the distribution of a different population characteristic for the geography you have chosen (in this case--Greensboro). Click on the "Compare Maps" and then click on an attribute that interests you. Because there are many non-citizens in North Carolina, you might want to try the "Non-Citizens" map. The map will redraw and display a distribution thematic for non-citizens. Zoom in or zoom out using both the "Zoom" tab or by clicking on the scale ("Map Width") ladder on the left side of the map. At 3 miles and below the street labels appear. These are "read only" interactive maps and you cannot corrupt them with anything you do, so try everything.

In some ways there is almost too much information in these maps and most clients want additional filtering or sorting to help them focus in only on areas containing population attributes of priority importance like race or ethnicity. We will work with you to define these areas to suit your objectives. For North Carolina we developed a statewide "Focus Area" interactive map that only displayed precincts having a certain threshold percentage (40% Black) of minority population over 18. Open (click on) the "Compare Maps" window and scroll down to the bottom and click on "Focus Precincts." You are now looking only at precincts in the Greensboro area containing a minority population of 40% or above with an estimated 50 or more unregistered African-Americans. If you zoom out to 50 miles (click the top bar at "Map Width") you will notice that there are large white areas. Because these are precincts below 40% Black population, they are outside the targeting range. As long as organizers confine their voter registration campaigns to the highlighted areas they will be registering voters in precincts with 40% or more African-American voters. Clients should remember that they can set the focus areas to a wide variety of demographic variables like race, ethnicity, income, citizenship, educational attainment, etc..

Staying inside the "Focus Precincts" for the Greensboro area, zoom to 10 miles out. Only precincts holding 40% or more Black and Latino populations combined reveal color thematics because they meet the client's threshold requirement. The blue boxes that appear at 10 miles and below contain estimates of not-registered Black 18+.

Getting Adobe Precinct or Block Group Canvassing Maps. Suppose you locate a precinct in the Greensboro Focus Precincts that you decide is worth canvassing, how do you get a map of only that precinct that you can give to a street team? Click on the "Info" tab and then click on the precinct of interest. A pop-up information window appears. In the top half of the window, scroll down to "Focus Precincts (NC)" and then click on the precinct name in the right column. In the bottom window an Internet link to an Adobe map will appear. Click that field and an Adobe precinct map for that precinct will display. If you left click the Adobe label, the map will appear in the bottom window of the inset. You can maximize this window to see more detail. Or, if you want this map to appear in its own window and fill your browser, right click the Adobe link and then click "Open in New Window." These Adobe maps are information dense, high quality Neighborhood Canvassing Maps that you give to street door-to-door canvassing teams.

You can print this map with your browser or save it to a folder for printing later. As long as you are in the areas defined by "Focus Precincts," you can find and print an Adobe map for any precinct you select.

These maps are color-coded to show the estimated unregistered Black 18+ population at the street level. The blue circles are sized to represent the underlying African-American voting age population by census block. The white numbers overlaying the blue circles show the estimated number of unregistered blacks by census block.

The Adobe maps can also be batch downloaded from this directory, which is organized by county and contains 350 Adobe maps-one for each precinct meeting the Focus Precincts threshold of 40% African-American.


Sometimes it may be easier to target precincts using an Excel spreadsheet we create that holds Focus Precinct information letting you sort or filter precincts to criteria you set. To do this you will need to use the Excel Sort feature (click on "Tools" and select "Sort").

A sample spreadsheet for the Greensboro Focus Area is attached to this correspondence. Please download, unzip and open it in Excel. Looking at row 1 (called a "header row") you will see definitions of the statistics presented in each column. Scroll slowly across the spreadsheet and look at all the different choices you have for sorting or filtering precincts by different population characteristics. Let's say you want to find the precincts with the highest total number of potential Black registrants for Guilford County. First, go to column "A" (labeled "County") and open the drop down window by clicking on the inverted triangle. Scroll down to "Guilford" and click on it. The worksheet now shows only Guilford County precincts meeting the threshold requirement. If you want to arrange these precincts further, say by number of unregistered black voters, highlight the "O" column, go to "Data" on the tools menu, and click on "Sort." You will get a "Sort Warning." Select the "Expand the Selection" button, then hit "Sort . . ." Next, set the "Sort By" choice by opening the drop down window and selecting "Unregistered Black." Set the sort order buttons to "descending," and click "OK." The spreadsheet will redraw the spreadsheet ordering the precincts from highest to lowest.

Notice column "D" ("Web-based Map Link") and column "F" ("Download Adobe Map"). This is where you get the Precinct (or, Neighborhood) canvassing maps which street teams and managers need to actually choose which blocks to concentrate on inside precincts campaign directors select for targeting. The Adobe maps are information dense and print well on quality paper. Be sure to set your printer to print to the paper size in your paper tray. The default size is 11" by 17." The interactive map lets you explore the neighborhood to locate other candidate precincts for targeting. Check out both options.


For technical reasons, registered voter files give us the most precise available method of estimating the number of not-registered voters present in a census block. By comparing this number to the population 18 and above in any block (available from the Census data), we can estimate the number of not-registered voters present. Maps generated with registered voter files incorporated are theoretically more accurate in estimating not-registered populations at the block level than maps generated without registered voter data. The North Carolina map library has been created with the registered voter file incorporated.

This tutorial was developed with assistance from Bill Cooper who also created the map databases and spreadsheet in association with and for Democracy South. If you experience technical difficulties with any of the above procedures or maps sets, do give us a call and we will coach you through the problem.

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