WPAi Wins Campaign and Elections “Reed Award” for Best Use of Data Analytics/Machine Learning in Field Program

By: Chris Wilson and Tim Lee

Utilizing Analytics for an Optimized Ground Game

The Greg Abbott for Governor re-election campaign entered the 2018 cycle with an aggressive focus on both vote goals and a clear aim to successfully generate Republican-leaning turnout targets at the individual level to support Republicans down the ballot and across the entirety of Texas.

The unique structure of Texas politics, where non-Presidential year turnout is extremely low (averaging 35% over the last three mid-terms) presents an opportunity to identify and turn out a large number of Republican-leaning voters who would typically not participate in a mid-term.

WPAi and our team, led by Senior Data Scientist Dr. Timothy Lee, began our effort to assist the Abbott campaign by building a predictive model of likelihood to vote in the mid-terms and likelihood to support Abbott. This yielded approximately 4.5 million individual targets for turnout efforts.

WPAi then helped the campaign plan the location of 180 field operatives who will be responsible for mobilizing volunteers to contact these targets by using an vertex-covering optimization algorithm.

This algorithm made it possible to effectively build field turfs for all 180 operatives across the massive and diverse expanse of Texas that were both:

1) Geographically contiguous and compact, and
2) Were scaled in such a way that a field operative who the plan called for to be hired 18 months from Election Day would have almost exactly three times the targets as one planned to be hired six months from the election, so that all of the targets could have the highest likelihood of contact.

The first wave of field operatives are already in the field based on the optimized turfs with a second wave planned for early 2018. To date, the campaign has already contacted 232,836 voters at the door.

What was the impact of data and analytics on the campaign?

WPAi’s predictive models and optimized field operative allocation is providing the geographic blueprint for one of the most powerful field efforts ever attempted by a state-level race.

To date, the first wave of field operatives and their volunteers have already contacted 232,836 voters at their doors.

What was the impact of data and analytics on the campaign?

WPAi’s predictive models and optimized field operative allocation is providing the geographic blueprint for one of the most powerful field efforts ever attempted by a state-level race.  To date, the first wave of field operatives and their volunteers have already contacted 232,836 voters at their doors.

The pre-built optimized turf structure also allowed the campaign to adapt seamlessly after Hurricane Harvey inundated much of East Texas. Operatives were quickly re-assigned or hired to cover other turfs in unaffected areas of the state while Houston and the Gulf Coast recovered.

Pictured: The WPAi team (left to right) Conor Maguire – Senior Client Strategist, Ashlee Rich Stephenson – Chief Strategy Officer, and Chris Wilson – CEO.

About Dr. Timothy Lee, the mastermind behind this Optimized ground game: Tim is an expert in mathematical optimization and his current interest lies in applications of convex optimization to machine learning and statistical modeling. When Tim is not in the office, you will find him at local tea shop studying mathematics and reading Milton Friedman. He was once known as “the sniper” for his remarkable jump shot in Basketball. Tim holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, specializing in operations research.