Before leaving the White House in January, former President Barack Obama said that his short-term, post-presidency focus will be on General Assembly races and redistricting. Now, he is delivering on that promise.
Obama and a group of top Democrats have joined forces to launch a nationwide campaign on state-level races to end the reconfiguring of voting districts known as gerrymandering —a combined effort to end “Trump-ism” and help the Democratic party regain control of Congress and legislatures across the country.
Voting districts are redrawn after a federal Census to reflect the changes in population and other demographic.
Much of the redistricting across the country is done by the political party that controls the state legislature.
However, with Republicans in power, the process, known as gerrymandering, has run amok, with the GOP drawing districts in crazy-quilt patterns to help protect incumbents and their party win more races.
“There’s one district in Virginia where you have to take a boat on the James River to get to another part,” Jared Leopold, spokesman for the Democratic National Redistricting Committee, told reporters.
The Republicans’s gerrymandering ploy has handed them the House majority and control of 20 additional state House and Senate chambers, giving the party broad authority in redrawing district maps after the Census that year.
Twenty-three legislatures are primarily responsible for that task. And the situation has only helped Republicans retain their seats and add to 2010 gains.
The group is leading Washington Democrats’ major effort to erase the majorities Republicans have in Congress and statehouses across the country.
Leopold cited three main objectives: help Democrats win more races in the next few election cycles to “put them in a better situation before redistricting in 2020,” embark on legal efforts to “undo some of the more egregious redistricting” after the 2010 Census and push ballot initiatives that will lead to fair maps.’
He described the NDRC as a “super group” that brings together the efforts of the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC.
The group’s chairman is former Attorney General Eric Holder, whose support, along with Obama’s, will give the group direction and provide a fundraising clout.
“We heard a lot in this past election about rigged systems,” Holder said last month in announcing the group’s start. “But I want to say the biggest rigged system in America is gerrymandering.”
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, one of the high-profile Democrat to take up the cause, said at Boston College Law School, where he’s now a visiting professor that “America needs non-partisan redistricting commissions.”
“This simple reform … must become the new norm of American democracy, said O’Malley, who also equates Trump’s beliefs and polices to fascism. “How can we expect people to vote if their voice has been carved into irrelevance by a political map ahead of time?”