As we mentioned in a post last week, this year marks a big change in the legislative districts in many states across the US. The 2010 census changed the population distribution across the country, meaning there are new congressional district definitions in both the house and the senate. In addition to the district changes this year, many states will see a large turnover in legislators occupying office because a number of elections at the state level occur in November. Come January 1st of next year, not only will you see some new legislators in office, the constituent makeup of each legislative district may be different as well.
While these changes may offer you a chance for a fresh start, some major headaches might arise when you try to assess the new players in the law-making process. With each new legislator you are starting from scratch: you must meet them, try to learn their position on your key issues, and build rapport with them. It takes time, and when you consider that they are elected in November, get some training, disappear for the holidays, and start work in January, you soon realize that learning who they are and how they think will be a challenge.
How does a government affairs office ramp up to get their voice back at the state capitol after a major shakeup like we are about to see? If you are using an advocacy system that assigns your advocates to their legislators according to their legislative district you may suddenly have a large change in your advocate distribution across the state. Perhaps a legislative district that you had a strong group of supporters in has changed and your foothold in the district has weakened. Or worse, perhaps that senator or representative you had a good rapport with is no longer in office. It’s clear that just depending on where your advocates live may no longer be an effective strategy.
One way to combat this is to consider collecting information on your supporters’ relationships with elected officials. With grassroots advocacy technology you can send out a request to your supporters to update their relationships with legislators. Supporters can log in and indicate which legislators they know and how they know them. This allows you to look at an elected official and view a list of your advocates that have a relationship with them and also see what type of relationship they have. Over time, supporters can come back and update their information, taking out relationships with those who are no longer in office, and adding relationships with newly elected legislators.
By keeping track of key political relationships you won’t have worry so much about new district lines or new faces in the legislature. You have another way to reach legislators in any district, and chances are some of your supporters will have a relationship with a newly elected member of the house or senate. Additionally, when it’s time to reach out to a specific legislator you can mobilize those that have a relationship with them. A few calls from people the legislator knows can be more effective than a hundred emails from constituents.
Is your organization ready for the big 2013 shakeup? If you are able to collect your supporters political relationships the big changes won’t seem like that big of a problem at all.