Unlock the VAN FAQ

Q. Why does this matter?

For the thousands of Democrats stepping up to run, ready access to invaluable voter data collected through the work of Democratic campaigns and parties for over a decade — and the freedom to make the best use of that data — is vital.

The DNC’s outdated rules requiring that this data be stored with a single company (NGP VAN), one that restricts outside integrations, puts all Democrats at a competitive disadvantage.

It means that Democratic candidates can’t choose to use whichever tools they believe will help them win if they also want to have access to the Democratic Party’s essential data on their voters. It means that candidates running for office all over the country can’t benefit from new, innovative technology.

Democratic candidates all over the country are facing this impossible choice, instead of being able to do whatever it takes to win.

Q. Why a petition? And why now?

The members of this coalition (and lots of Democratic candidates) have tried other channels, with no luck. And now is the time to make a change. The DNC is in the process of making important decisions about its future infrastructure, including a hiring a new CTO, and we believe it’s critical to shed light on this little-known issue and ensure that it’s part of the broader conversation happening at the DNC.

Your voice should be part of their decision. A petition is an opportunity to raise awareness and amplify the voices of all who want to encourage the DNC to help equip Democratic candidates with the data they need, as well as any of the tools they believe will help them win.

Q. What would be a successful outcome of this petition?

The solution is simple, and could be achieved with an industry-standard open API, (short for Application Programming Interface). An open API allows any developer to build a conduit, or integration, that allows two apps to talk with each other—creating opportunities for innovation and powerful network effects. Providing one wouldn’t require the DNC to cede control of who can access their data. Your bank likely has an open API—it’s what allows you to manage personal finances through apps like Venmo and Mint. And, needless to say, your bank hasn’t ceded control of their customers data to Venmo. Democrats should have access to an equally open ecosystem of apps for their campaigns.

Q. Shouldn’t the party be able to decide which candidates get access to the party's data?

Ultimately the party is going to choose the candidates that they want to back, and the intention of this petition is not to dictate what the Democratic Party should or should not do with its data. We simply disagree with any exclusive vendor relationship that penalizes or prevents candidates from taking advantage of new technologies that could increase their chances of success.

Q. What’s NGP VAN?

NGP VAN is a privately owned, for-profit company that provides campaign technology to Democrat and progressive candidates in the United States. Formed in 2010, NGP VAN was created as the result of a merger between Voter Activation Network and NGP Software.

Notably, NGP VAN is currently the sole distributor of the DNC voter file (Votebuilder) and holds a comprehensive database of Democratic party campaign data, to which it offers its customers access only during the duration of their campaigns, and only if they adhere to an exclusive API agreement that prohibits integration with any competing vendors or technologies.

Q. What’s all this talk about open APIs?

The development and advancement of technology depends on the contributions of millions of developers who can apply their skill to building metaphoric and literal bridges. No single person has all the answers or all the best ideas; that’s why companies build APIs and open them up to the public.

An API is simply a way for different applications to talk to each other (or “integrate”). Technology companies build APIs and either keep them under lock-and-key so that only companies or developers hand-picked by them can use it, or they open them up to the broader developer community and let the creativity and needs of users dictate what integrations are built.

Q. What do you mean by “monopoly?”

Merriam-Webster’s legal definition of monopoly is “exclusive control of a particular market that is marked by the power to control prices and exclude competition and that especially is developed willfully rather than as the result of superior products or skill.”

In this instance, we refer to a single vendor’s exclusive control of the Democratic Party database that provides the infrastructure for Democratic candidates’ campaigns for office.

Q. Is this a pitch for the DNC’s business?

No. This isn’t about recommending any one company, platform, or technology as a solution for running successful Democratic campaigns. It’s about opening the technological ecosystem that Democratic candidates can have at their disposal.