Record numbers of people have downloaded and used the Democrats' mobile app for doorknocking canvassers

MiniVAN (Android, Iphone) is a mobile app designed for volunteers who canvas door-to-door during election seasons; though the app has been around since 2010, it's seeing a surge in popularity, with 218,189 logged-in users in the 2018 midterm season, compared with the 153,513 users in the 2016 presidential race.

On every metric, MiniVAN usage is crazy-high, and the surge can't be explained away with the continuing shift from pen-and-paper record-keeping to mobile tools.

Even more exciting: the increase is for a midterm election, and is being compared to the 2016 presidential election, which typically sees a much higher level of activity (fundraising, canvassing, voter turnout).

Canvassing numbers don't necessarily predict election turnouts, but they do measure grassroots interest. It's one thing for billionaires to throw fortunes in dark money at a mid-term, but it's another altogether for ordinary Americans to get off their couches and go door-to-door to support progressive candidates.

"It's very unusual for a non-presidential campaign to have much volunteer power at all," says Eitan Hersh, an associate professor of political science at Tufts University and author of the book Hacking the Electorate, who has studied log-in rates for NGP VAN's tools. There are exceptions for candidates like senator Elizabeth Warren or, this year, for O'Rourke, but Hersh says, "For a typical congressional election, the only person logging into the VAN is the candidate or their spouse."

Coulombe says that the spike in MiniVAN usage this year is spread across the country. The weekend MiniVAN set its new record, the top five states for users were New York, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, and Florida. "It's not like this is all coming from one specific campaign," Coulombe says.

Democrats Are Busting Their 2016 Mobile Canvassing Records [Issie Lapowsky/Wired]