Azavea Atlas

Maps, geography and the web

Cicero Sponsors #HacktheVotePA

Philly Tech Week is upon us, and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association is hosting an exciting hackathon for the occasion. #HacktheVotePA is a day-long event geared toward voter education and engagement, causes that are near and dear to the Cicero team’s heart.

4 hands holding the letters that form the word "vote"

For this reason, we are thrilled to announce that Cicero will be sponsoring #HacktheVotePA, and will provide 2,000 free API credits to all who sign up during the hackathon on May 5th. The Cicero API geocodes addresses, then matches them to legislative districts and officials at the National, State, and even local levels for about 100 of the largest US cities. It also returns comprehensive elected official contact information like office addresses, emails, and social media identifiers. To start using the API, simply visit our free trial page and sign up. You will instantly get 1,000 credits, and as a bonus we’ll add 1,000 more. Check out our documentation, then get hacking!

#HacktheVotePA is happening at the Philadelphia Media Network on May 5th, from 9am-5pm. Tickets are only $10, and you can register for them here. This is a great event, focused on an important cause. We hope to see you there!

 

Free Cicero API credits for #DemHack2016!

 

In honor of Apps for Philly Democracy 2016, Cicero is granting twice the free API credits to all who sign up Friday, March 18th through Sunday, March 20th. #DemHack2016 is a weekend-long hackathon thatLogo for Apps for Philly Democracy Hackathon 2016 brings Philadelphians together to discuss how technology can improve democracy in our city. Since this is a cause that is near and dear to our hearts, we’re offering 2,000 free Cicero API credits during the hackathon!

Ok, free stuff is cool, but what can you do with it? The Cicero API geocodes addresses, then matches them to legislative districts and officials at the National, State, and local levels for about 100 of the
largest US cities (including Philadelphia, of course). It also returns comprehensive elected
official contact information like office addresses, emails, and social media identifiers (we recently added Instagram and LinkedIn to our growing list). The API even has a map call that provides you with a configurable boundary map image for each district.

In addition to free credits, the Cicero Team would love to feature any apps coming out of the Hackathon using our API. To sign up, simply visit our free trial page. You will instantly get 2,000 credits, which will be good for a full 6 months. Check out our documentation, then get hacking! We’re excited to see what you come up with.

 

2015 State Legislative Vacancy Report

2015 was a turbulent year for state legislatures in the US. It is not unheard of for legislators to step down mid-term, however the past year saw a whopping 88 seats vacated by State Senators and Representatives. When an elected official steps down before their term is over, the seat is either filled by an appointment or a special election. Twenty-three states appoint successors, either through the Governor’s office, or by the party last occupying the seat. A slightly greater number of states hold special elections to fill empty seats. In this case, a district’s constituents are without representation until the newly elected official takes office, which is often months after the seat was first vacated.

Why all the Change?

A legislator may choose to leave their post for various reasons. In 2015, the top reason for open seats was due to an official being appointed or elected to an alternate position. For example, a
A graph depicting the reasons for State Legislative VacanciesGovernor or Mayor may call on a State Senator to leave the legislature to serve in their cabinet. This appointment may then set off a series of special elections, as it is common for a State Representative to run for that open State Senate position (typically referred to as a “promotion” to a higher legislature). Similarly, a legislator may leave their seat to run in another election. This happened in February in Texas SD-26 when Senator Leticia Van de Putte left her seat to run for Mayor of San Antonio. Jose Menendez, an incumbent in Texas HD-124 won that election, setting off yet another special election for his newly vacant house seat.

The second most popular reason for an elected official retiring in 2015 was to accept a job in the private sector. Some state legislatures are considered “part-time” and many officials carry additional jobs. New Hampshire’s Rockingham 20 House District Representative Dennis B. Sweeney held a zero percent voting record four months into his 2015 term. He ultimately stepped down because his work schedule prevented him from attending sessions.

Repeat Offenders

So, which states had the most special elections in 2015? 2 or 3 elections might be typical for a state in any given year, but in 2015 Georgia held a monumental 12 special elections–a recent all time high. That is the more than any state going back to 2011. Interestingly, Georgia was the winner that year as well, with 11 polls for vacated positions. Coming up second this year was Pennsylvania, with 8 special elections, 6 of which occurred in the second half of the year.

A graph showing US States that had the most special elections in 2015

Comparatively

88 vacant seats may seem like a lot. But how does it compare to years past? In the previous 4 years, 2011 was the only year to exceed 2015 in terms of vacant seats up for special election, with a grand total of 94. This actually makes sense. In 4 year election cycles, the year before a Presidential election (in which many other states also hold state elections) typically sees a lot of activity.
2015 Vacancies compared to the past 4 yearsThis is due in part to legislators resigning seats to run for different, open ones. The previous years, (2010 and 2014) also saw mid-term elections during which new administrations may have taken office and appointed Senators and Representatives to cabinet positions. If appointments take time, the open seats they create may not be reflected until the following year.

2013 also saw a high number of vacant seats filled with special elections, with a total of 84. Because odd years see very few state elections, Special Elections must be called, rather than an even-year option of waiting until the next scheduled general election. Many state laws specify that if a seat becomes vacant within a few months of a scheduled, general election, the seat will wait to be filled at that time. This unfortunately leaves a district without representation, but it does save the state a significant amount of money. Special elections often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and see very low turnout from the electorate.

Moving Forward

Wondering if 2016 will be more of the same? Heading into the second month of the year, 34 state legislative seats are already open. 20 special elections have been scheduled, and 3 remain unscheduled at this time. At least 6 more open seats are awaiting appointment. And you can probably bet there will be more.

The Cicero database keeps track of Special Elections for all 50 states in the US, at the National, State, and even local levels for our largest cities. If you’re interested in learning more, give us a shout via email (cicero@azavea.com) or Twitter (@CiceroAPI). We’d love to talk elections with you!

 

Editing Your Address Detail Page in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Cicero Salesforce Nonprofit

Cicero’s integration with the Salesforce Nonprofit Starter Pack last November allowed users to verify their addresses and match them to legislative districts. This tool has been extremely helpful for many nonprofits who want to improve their postage automation rate ahead of a large mailing, or match their constituents to legislative districts in order to advance an advocacy campaign.

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While Cicero will append Congressional, State Upper, and State Lower legislative districts to address records, your organization may not have a use for all three. Below, we will walk you through the steps of editing your address layout page so you can get exactly what you need out of the Cicero integration:

1) After logging in to your Nonprofit Starter Pack account, navigate to “Setup” at the top of the screen

2) On the left hand side scroll down to “Create” (under the Build Heading) and then choose “Objects” in the menu underneath

3) Select the label titled “Address”

A snapshot of the Custom Objects page in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

4) Scroll down to “Page Layouts” or use the shortcut at the top

5) Click “Edit” on the Page Layout you’d like to modify

A snapshot of how to find and edit your custom page layouts in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

6) Using the Address Layout Widget at the top, you can choose to add or remove the Congressional District, State Upper District, or State Lower District fields from your Address Detail page

A snapshot of the Address Layout Widget in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

If you’d like to add a field, simply drag and drop into your Address Detail. To remove a field, mouse over it in the Address Detail example and click the “remove” button.

A snapshot of the Address Detail editor in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

Warning! Be careful not to remove other fields that are essential to the address itself, such as Mailing Street, City, State, Zip, and Country. Turning on Address Verification with Cicero also automatically appends a “Verified” field to your detail page. You’ll want to leave that there to indicate whether or not a new address has been verified.

7) Once you’ve added or removed your desired Legislative District fields, you can change their location on the Address Detail page just by clicking and dragging

A snapshot of how to click and drag to rearrange your address detail page in the Nonprofit Starter Pack

8) When you’re done, either choose to preview your new Address Detail page at the top, or click Save

It’s that easy! And you shouldn’t feel bad about adding or removing legislative districts, because regardless of how many districts you match to an address, it still only costs one credit. Cicero offers a 10% discount on all credit purchases for nonprofits, and our partnership with Techsoup allows 5,000 credits for a small $30 donation. Have questions about pricing? Drop us a line or tweet us @CiceroAPI. We’re happy to help!

 

Free Cicero Credits During #Dreamforce!

In honor of Dreamforce 2015, Cicero is granting twice the free API credits to all who sign up between September 15th and 22nd. The Cicero API matches addresses to legislative districts, and returns comprehensive elected official information, including district offices and social media identifiers. As a developer, use the API  to fuel the next great Salesforce App! Not a developer? Cicero is already integrated with the Nonprofit Starter Pack, for easily matching your household addresses to legislative districts. 

During Dreamforce, we want to encourage everyone to test out Cicero with 2,000 free credits! To sign up, simply visit our free trial page. You will instantly get 1,000 credits, which is good for 90 days. As a tribute to Dreamforce, we’ll add 1,000 more, and extend your trial an additional 3 months. That’s 2,000 credits in total, good for 6 months (trust us, we did the math).

Have questions? Drop us a line or tweet us; we’ll be happy to help. Happy Dreamforce!

 

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