by Dave Leichtman
2011 has been a very busy year in many state legislatures, and 2012 will be even busier. Many states, since the 2010 Census was finalized, have been planning new state legislative and US Congressional districts according to new population distribution data - a process known as redistricting. As a good half of all Salsa clients regularly use the Advocacy/Actions package, it's important that everyone know how this will affect their and their supporters' use of Salsa.
Here are the two dates you need to know: January 2012 and January 2013. Starting the second week of January 2012, new state legislative districts will go into effect in Virginia, New Jersey, and Louisiana. These are the three states that had off-year state legislative elections and were able to approve redistricting plans in time. Hence when their legislatures are sworn in for the 2012 sessions, all three of them the second week in January, those new districts will take effect. Likewise, for 2013, almost all states will have new congressional districts drawn and approved in 2012, and those will go into effect when the new Congress is sworn in the first week of January 2013. Most state legislative plans will also go into effect later in the month in January 2013.
Those are the two times during which you'll see the most changes in legislative data in the Advocacy Package, and most of those changes will impact how supporters are matched to what representative district. As always, there will be a lot of legislator turnover during those times, and we'll do our best to update data as it becomes available. Note this caveat: there will be some states that won't meet the deadlines for redistricting (example, Mississippi this year), and so their districts may require another year (and another election!) to go into effect.
An example of one of our most frequent questions to Support lately is "Why haven't you updated Virginia yet?" While we understand that people want the "most current data possible," it should be noted that the main intent of the Advocacy/Actions package is to target current representatives for legislative action. As such, and because we can only maintain one master list matching zip code to legislative district, we're forced to choose the "official" representation of districts. So while people in Virginia may have already voted in their new legislative districts, they aren't technically represented by them until the new legislative session starts. This also ensures that new representative data is consistent across the platform, as well. Note that many newly elected legislators haven't even left their previous jobs yet, as of writing this; so they may not even have information like a phone number or email address for you to target.
One thing that makes Salsa great, however, is its flexibility. We don't like to say no if we don't have to. Custom targets can be targeted based on zip code (not zip-plus-four, unfortunately). So while it may not work for state legislative districts, as 2012 approaches, we'll be encouraging clients to help us build up a zip code to US Congressional District mapping that everyone can use in the interim from Nov 2012 to Jan 2013 to target incoming Us Representatives.
Hopefully that answers most of your questions surrounding redistricting. Maybe it made you curious to know more. Either way, we're always happy to answer your questions. Don't hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.