Now that you've learned what the voter file is, it's time to find out how to get your hands on it.
There are a couple of ways to get access to the voter file you need:
1. Directly from the Secretary of State
You can go directly to your state's secretary of state and get a 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 to get access to them.
For example, Ohio's Voter File can be downloaded by anyone for free right from the SOS 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 in a letter explaining your intended use and a copy of a photo ID.
Keep in mind that the information included in the voter file 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 vanilla voter file with more information about the voters on your own, or you can skip that step and get a version of the voter file that already has more information added in.
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 or national Democratic party, 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. Buy the file 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 through The Movement Cooperative. Members of TMC get access to Catalist and TargetSmart as part of their membership.