Now that you've learned what the voter file is, it's time to find out how to access it. There are a few places where you can get it:
1. Directly from your state's Secretary of State
You can go directly to your state's Secretary of State and get the voter file there. Each state determines their own requirements for who can access voter files, how much it costs, what they can be used for, and the processes for accessing them.
For example, Ohio's Voter File can be downloaded by anyone for free right from the Secretary of State's website. Other states, like Alabama, charge a fee ($0.01) per voter. Oregon charges a flat amount ($500) for the statewide file.
Some states are more restrictive and require registering with the state. In California, for instance, you must complete a form and send a copy of a photo ID and a letter explaining your intended use of the file.
The information included in the voter file that comes directly from the Secretary of State is likely to be fairly limited, and usually won't include things like email addresses or phone numbers of voters. To get that kind of information, you'll want to augment the basic voter file with more information about the voters on your own, or get a version of the voter file that already has more information added in. The next two options talk about who offers these enhanced lists, and how to obtain them.
2. From your state party
Often, you can get the voter file from your state or national party, which takes the file from the Secretary of State and cleans it up, then appends a bunch of different data points. Typically, the party runs all the information against a national mailing address database, appends other information from the census, buys additional consumer data, and sometimes even layers on a bunch of predictive models. If you access the voter file through your state party or the Democratic National Committee, you'll likely use a tool called NGP/VAN to access, manipulate, and update the data. Candidates typically can get access to this file by submitting a request to the Democratic party for their state.
3. From a vendor
The best way to get access to the voter file is through your state party, but if that's not an option, there are voter files maintained by other organizations. Catalist and TargetSmart maintain updated and enriched versions of voter files across the country, and allow you to purchase one-off lists or a subscription for regular updates. You can also get access to the voter file if you are a member of The Movement Cooperative.