Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy. It is a right that Republican gerrymandering systematically undermined for Democrats in the last district remapping process, according to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
In response to that, Holder announced on Jan. 12 that he’s fighting back with a group of Democratic leaders he chairs called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The group is implementing a multi-faceted redistricting strategy targeting state and local elections. Its goal is leveling the playing field for Democrats in time for the congressional and state legislative remaps in 2021 that will shape governance for the next decade.
“The biggest rigged system in America is gerrymandering,” Holder said at a news conference?, alluding to president-elect Donald J. Trump’s pronouncements before winning that the presidential election was rigged. “A system where the lines are drawn, not to represent American communities, but to benefit politicians. A system where politicians pick their voters, and not where American citizens choose their representatives consistent with our founding ideals.”
Holder launched the group at liberal think tank Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., and it has already found an early ally in outgoing President Barack Obama, who has made it one of his post-election priorities. Holder is also in discussions with leadership from the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund – where he sits on the board of directors – to enlist them in the fight.
The committee will deploy a three-point strategy in the fight. First, it will focus on making gains in key governors’, legislative and other down-ballot races that impact redistricting. Priorities there are winning the Virginia governorship and state legislative seats in a potential special election in North Carolina.
The second strategy involves giving Democrats the legal resources they need to take election fights to the courts – Holder is a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling. The third strategy involves investing in state ballot initiatives that push reform as a means of changing maps.
What Democrats don’t want is a repeat of 2011. That year, Republicans drew the districts in a way that favored their party and blocked Democrats from making gains in Congress and legislative chambers. Holder says Democrats were too focused on winning the White House and lost sight of the bigger picture – making sure they were fully represented during the redistricting process.
That oversight cost them.
House Republican candidates secured 51 percent of the vote nationally in the November elections, but scored 55 percent of the seats in Congress, according to the Cook Political Report. Moreover, the GOP now controls a record 32 states in both chambers. “Gerrymandering has always been a part of our political process and I think that what we’re seeing right now is gerrymandering on steroids,” Holder said.
“We’ll take people as they are, we’ll see where it is that you stand,” Holder said. “And if we’ve got to fight you, we’ll fight you.”