SMTP 550-5.7.1 Rejected Because of Virginia Redistricting

A few months ago, my wife Lisa and I were hosting an event in Richmond, Virginia. She emailed an invitation to Senator Ghazala Hashmi.

"Harry, what does SMTP 550-5.7.1 mean and what does it have to do with redistricting in Virginia?"

Lisa is brilliant, but she isn't someone I'd expect to quote SMTP error codes to me. Even more unexpected was that the political activity of redistricting the Virginia General Assembly has nothing to do with the technical Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) that powers email delivery.

The email bounced:

550-5.7.1 Thank you for contacting the Senate of Virginia.
As a result of redistricting in Virginia by the Supreme Court
in December of 2021, the geographical makeup of all 40 Senate
districts has changed. In addition to the changes in district
boundaries, the majority of the district numbers have also changed.
Please use the General Assembly Whos My Legislator service to 
determine your Senator and receive their appropriate contact
information.

Lisa had emailed district10@senate.virginia.gov. Senator Hashmi had recently been redistricted out of Senate District 10 and into Senate District 15.1 And apparently the legislature's IT department had decided -- probably correctly -- to no longer allow addressing Senators by district numbers at all to avoid a decennial mail routing problem.

I am fascinated when the political world collides with the technical world in peculiar ways like this one. A highly technical mail server response referencing political redistricting is a testament to how interconnected our systems have become.

Footnotes

  1. In December 2021, as part of the decennial process that follows the U.S. Census, the Virginia Supreme Court approved a redistricting plan, redrawing the boundaries of all 40 Senate districts and renumbering most of them.