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Redistricting: Challenges & Opportunities for Government Affairs Teams in 2022

by Lydia Stowe, FiscalNote

With redistricting underway across the U.S., what are the obstacles and opportunities for government affairs and advocacy professionals to consider?

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The process of redrawing electoral district boundaries post-census, coupled with a midterm election year, means plenty of challenges and opportunities for government affairs and advocacy professionals. 

State legislatures in at least 35 states revamped congressional and state legislative districts during their 2022 sessions for them to be in effect for November campaigns. While Congressional reapportionment grabs the most headlines, the nitty-gritty of redistricting is done at the state legislative level where nationwide, 7,383 legislative districts — 5,411 House and 1,972 Senate — will be refashioned for the next decade.

This poses many challenges for organizations, as the messy and complex redistricting process brings thousands of state legislators to new districts. These legislators have the challenge of learning new constituents, districts, and issues and in turn, organizations must get to know legislators and even remap their government relations operations at the state level.

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Why Does Redistricting Matter?

Redrawn lines are expected to play a big role in the 2022 midterm election outcomes, as they put some members running for reelection in a vulnerable position. 

As a result of the census, six states are adding congressional seats, with Texas gaining two and five states (North Carolina, Florida, Oregon, Montana, and Colorado) each adding one. California, the largest congressional delegation with 53 representatives, lost a seat for the first time. Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York also lost one seat each.

In many districts, it’s still unclear who will be running, making election predictions murky. “The dirty secret of political analysis is that it's helpful to know where a race is taking place and who's running,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, elections analyst and Inside Elections editor, in a recent virtual event. “And in hundreds of districts, we don't know those pieces yet.” For now, Republicans are expected to gain some seats or put themselves in a good position through the redistricting process. 

Consequences of Redistricting for Government Affairs and Advocacy Teams 

In addition to the potential impact on the midterm election outcomes, there are plenty of organizational challenges presented by redistricting that can cause miscommunications or even delays in receiving necessary funding. 

“It’s a challenge making sure that correspondence and communication is going to the correct congressional member,” said Ernie Post, state director of the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center (SBDC). His organization encourages small businesses to share their success stories and communicate with congressional members regarding funding, so having up-to-date information throughout the redistricting process is essential.

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Relationship Building & Stakeholder Management

One of the most important and challenging jobs of a government affairs professional is to engage and communicate with stakeholders effectively. During an election year, this means double the work as you not only have to maintain relationships with current legislators but also start building relationships with candidates who are likely to win before they even take office. Redistricting adds yet another layer, when legislators and districts may change even more during the year.

It’s important to prepare for the redistricting and midterm results early and start building relationships with your future stakeholders, putting your issues in front of candidates, and understanding their position on the issues that matter to your organization.

Redistricting often causes an abrupt shift in established relationships. “When the districts get changed, those relationships that our center directors formed and built often change,” Post explained. “It presents complications if a long-term congressional member all of a sudden shifts territorially.” 

The move to virtual meetings over the last two years has helped with relationship building, Post said. “It has made it easier for us to bring the client into those meetings and do roundtables with congressional members,” he said. During a year when stakeholder relationships may be changing, relying on technology to have your issues heard is more important than ever. 

Leveraging Technology to Mitigate Redistricting Challenges

Having the right technology is an opportunity for organizations to stay on top of the redistricting process and start forming relationships early, said Post. Until this year, the Pennsylvania SBDC used a spreadsheet to keep track of congressional districts, which they had to update with every election or redistricting. “Now VoterVoice automates that for us and alleviates the headache,” Post said. “Otherwise, that often would have caused mistakes.”

VoterVoice, FiscalNote’s flagship digital advocacy solution, helps organizations mobilize their supporters and amplify their message while staying up-to-date on legislation and regulations that matter to them.

“Using VoterVoice’s technology makes it easy to track the territorial changes — that is the major opportunity,” Post said. While he would prefer “more stable boundaries built around communities rather than splitting cities or boroughs between different congressional members, [VoterVoice] works in the way that we need to continue doing business with congressional members.” 

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