Districts pulled out of a map.
Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

No data, no maps

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: how a lack of properly vetted and sorted census data is impacting tomorrow’s primaries in Ohio, Snowflake reaches into the self-managed data center with help from Dell, and last week’s enterprise tech startup funding activity.

Spin up

The shift to cloud computing has made it hard for companies that can’t afford to pay Silicon Valley engineer salaries but want to reap its benefits, and security people are even harder to find. That’s the conclusion of a new survey conducted by Threatpost, which found the most common worry among cloud users is keeping their instances secure.

My data was gone

Patricia Goetz couldn’t wait any longer. The physician and Democrat running for an Ohio state senate seat finally got to knocking on voters’ doors in late April in her hometown of Hudson, the charming city between Cleveland and Akron known for its preserved 19th century homes, old-timey storefronts and historic clock tower.

It was time to kick her campaign into gear, but she still doesn’t know for sure whether the district she aims to represent will include the city where she lives, a requirement for holding office.

  • With 2020 census data coming in late, some states — including Ohio — have yet to finalize their redistricted electoral maps.
  • Amid political rancor, lawsuits and accusations of extreme partisan gerrymandering by a Republican-led redistricting commission, the Great Lakes swing state has already rejected four maps. Some of those didn’t include Hudson in the 27th district, where Goetz thinks she’s running.
  • “I’m having trouble getting donors. They don’t want to donate — the big-ticket donors — until they know what district I’m in,” Goetz, a psychiatrist, said.
  • Without those would-be big donors, Goetz said she is paying out of her own pocket for a campaign manager, treasurer, digital media consulting and fundraising help.

The dearth of finalized data has a trickle-down effect. Voters, candidates and government election authorities are feeling the brunt of a tardy census and late redistricting throughout the country.

  • From ad-targeting disruption and voter contact confusion to donor stalling and obstacles to voter registration efforts, unsettled electoral maps mean serious data headaches.
  • Redistricted maps in 10 states including Ohio are in litigation, and five do not have maps drafted, according to Princeton’s nonpartisan analysis.
  • “It’s not a stretch to say it affects every decision you’re going to make about how you’re going to target in your campaign,” said Paul Westcott, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing at L2, a nonpartisan political data provider.

Matt Dole, a Republican campaign consultant at Communications Counsel in Ohio, is working with Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican running for reelection in the 6th district of Ohio.

  • But so far, even though there is a map that will apply for the impending primary, it remains subject to legal challenges afterwards.
  • That means Dole’s first stop for voter list data — GOP Data Center, the Republican National Committee’s national voter database — has not incorporated the updated information he needs to easily generate lists of gun-rights advocates or women aged 35-and-over in Johnson’s district for targeted canvassing, ad targeting, printed mail delivery and voter outreach efforts.
  • That also means Dole and his team have had to track down precinct and corresponding ZIP code data from at least 75 local election board authorities, then manually enter that information into the GOP system.
  • “It’s a pain in the rear end for the person who has to pull that data. It’s a lot of precincts,” Dole said.

It's BallotReady’s mission to make sense of the data maze created by the jumble of U.S. election processes and authorities. The nonpartisan organization, which provides information on upcoming elections, candidates, ballot measures and other local election data, has a team of researchers whose job it is to contact local authorities for data on rules for voting by mail, which candidates are running in every district and where ballot drop boxes are located.

  • When election time nears, BallotReady hires additional contractors to manage the workload, said CEO and co-founder Alex Niemczewski.
  • In March, the organization had around 80 people making calls and digging around municipal, city and county websites for updated election information. By November, there could be as many as 120, Niemczewski said.
  • “We kind of assume stuff is going to be messy. We have to be very good at gathering and changing frequently updated data,” she said.

The 2022 midterms bring a new obstacle to data gathering. Partisan bullying has put so much pressure on local election authorities and even created genuine security threats, leading some of those authorities to be less accessible to organizations seeking out updated data, Niemczewski said.

  • “There used to be someone who would answer the phone, but now it goes straight to voicemail; they have received so many violent threats,” she said.
  • Even when information is available, it is not formatted in a standardized way, could include errors and might be provided using antiquated technology. “We got a floppy disc in 2019,” Niemczewski said.
  • “You just have this decentralized, disconnected and fragmented ecosystem where no one is responsible for correcting errors,” said Jeremy Smith, CEO and co-founder of Civitech, which provides information for people interested in running for office and helps advocacy groups find potential candidates to endorse who are trained to run for school boards or other hyperlocal seats.

The lack of finalized district data, said Smith, means “there are groups waiting in the wings to do these things, and we don’t have a good option to sell them because the data is not there.”

  • Not only does the lack of data result in lost or delayed revenue for his company, when customers have no choice but to go ahead with a project, “we can’t do any geographical analysis” of voters or the campaign landscape, he said.
  • “It matters quite a lot for any chance for improvement in innovation,” Smith said, explaining that customers “are often resorting to unsophisticated methods.”

— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM PENDO

Our workplace has changed in many ways. Most work now happens inside technology, hybrid work arrangements appear here to stay, and organizations are trying to keep up. Join us May 10 at Guide: The Digital Adoption Summit to learn how your org can adapt to the digital workplace.

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Snowflakes in the data center

After years of watching cloud vendors steal its thunder, Dell Technologies announced a new partnership Monday that would be a first, allowing customers to use its on-premises data — stored on Dell ECS, an enterprise object storage platform — with Snowflake’s Data Cloud.

Customers will be able to use Snowflake to perform cloud-based data analytics while keeping their data local in their data centers or copying it to public clouds, giving them greater flexibility in multicloud environments and helping them meet data sovereignty requirements, according to the companies. Snowflake has risen to prominence because it allows customers to share data easily across multiple clouds and organizations, but companies that are required to keep their data close by had to stand on the sidelines.

Dell unveiled the news at its Dell Technologies World 2022 conference that kicked off Monday in Las Vegas. The initial Snowflake capabilities are expected to be available in the second half of this year.


— Donna Goodison (email | twitter)

Upcoming at Protocol

Tech regulation is fast coming over the horizon. Companies everywhere are bracing for new privacy legislation and antitrust action, but much of the focus thus far has been on how the biggest tech firms will fare. What about the rest of the sector? Join Protocol’s Ben Brody and a panel of experts for a virtual event on May 5 at 10 a.m. PT as we dive into the biggest regulatory priorities of the not-quite-biggest tech companies.


The panel will feature Christine Bannan, U.S. Public Policy Manager, Proton; Michael Petricone, SVP, Government & Regulatory Affairs, Consumer Technology Association (CTA); and Awesta Sarkash, Government Affairs Director, Small Business Majority. RSVP here.

Financial corner

Harness was valued at $3.7 billion after raising $230 million for its CI/CD software.

Anthropic, the AI safety and research company, raised $580 million to build large-scale AI models.

Ayar Labs raised $130 million from Nvidia, Intel and others for its chip-to-chip optical photonics technology.

VisionNav Robotics was valued at $500 million after raising $76 million for its autonomous forklifts and other logistics robots.

Coherent raised $75 million for its no-code SaaS platform.

RelationalAI raised $75 million to help enterprises build intelligent data applications.


— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Google fired an AI researcher for protesting the conclusions of a research paper authored by the company last year that found AI was better than people at designing chips.

Apple sued Rivos, a chip startup, for allegedly poaching several key chip designers and stealing the iPhone-maker’s trade secrets.

A MESSAGE FROM PENDO

What makes it hard to manage a complex IT portfolio? How can IT take the lead on driving software adoption? What role should cross-departmental partners play in their strategy? You’ll get the answers to these questions and more from leaders at Asana, Linksys, and ELF Beauty during our CIO panel at Guide: The Digital Adoption Summit. Join us for free on May 10.

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