Democrats Consults Obama For Crucial Redistricting Push

The House majority next year could be determined in a state-by-state fight over redistricting that’s taking place right now.
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The House majority next year could be determined in a state-by-state fight over redistricting that’s taking place right now.

And Democrats are calling in the big guns.

Former President Barack Obama hosted a fundraiser for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee on Thursday. The event in Martha’s Vineyard raised $1.5 million, the committee told POLITICO, ahead of a crucial stretch of redistricting fights that will play out in the closing months of this year.
“The only danger is that we get complacent,” Obama said at the fundraiser for the premiere Democratic group working on redistricting battles, according to a readout obtained by POLITICO. “Because one thing we’ve learned is that the other side doesn’t quit.”

The NDRC is helmed by Eric Holder, who served as Obama’s first attorney general. Obama has been a vocal supporter of the NDRC’s efforts in the past, which were launched in early 2017 after the party was largely overrun in redistricting fights in the previous decade.

Democrats have been aggressive in recent fights over maps, and analysts found that lines are among the most balanced in decades. Yet a series of court rulings — state courts blocked some of Democrats’ more aggressive gerrymanders, while some of Republicans’ stood for the midterms — could have tipped the control of the House toward the GOP.

Obama speaking at an event

But increasingly, the battle over state lines does not end when that first map is drawn, with recent court fights re-opening the mapmaking process in a handful of states across the country.

“We are now living in an era of perpetual redistricting,” John Bisognano, the president of NDRC, wrote in a memo accompanying the recent fundraiser that was shared first with POLITICO.

The memo from the committee projects that there are five states that could see new maps by the end of this year — which is “enough to tip control of the U.S. House of Representatives to either party,” Bisognano writes.

Perhaps most pressingly is Alabama. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s findings that the state’s old maps likely violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters. (An NDRC affiliate is involved in this suit.) Litigation is ongoing after the GOP-dominated legislature seemingly defied that lower federal court’s order to draw an additional Black-majority district in the state. But should that seat be drawn, there would be two majority Black — and likely Democratic — seats in Alabama.

“Alabama’s still engaging in resistance, and NDRC has to be there, along with other civil rights organizations, to ensure that this victory in the Supreme Court is actually translated into people’s votes being counted in Alabama,” Obama said at the fundraiser.

Similarly, a Louisiana case that was put on hold pending the Alabama Supreme Court decision is set to pick back up in October, and it could also result in another majority Black, Democratic-leaning district, as could an ongoing case in Georgia.

Perhaps the biggest prize for Democrats is New York. After a lengthy legal battle, a court threw out a Democratic-drawn gerrymander for the midterms. Democrats are now suing in state court, arguing that last year’s court-drawn lines were temporary. A largely advisory redistricting commission could put forward new lines by the end of this year. But what Democrats are hoping for is that the mapmaking process ends up in the hands of the Democratic-dominated legislature. A similar gerrymander to the one the party tried to implement for last year’s election would make seven of the 11 seats currently held by Republicans more Democratic-friendly.

But it isn’t all good news for Democrats in 2023. Republicans in North Carolina will get their chance to reclaim some seats in a gerrymander of their own, after the partisan balance of the state Supreme Court flipped and the newly-conservative judiciary said it wouldn’t weigh in on partisan gerrymandering. Republicans will redraw their congressional districts later this year and could pick up as many as four seats in the Tar Heel State — more than erasing any gains the party could see out of increased Black representation elsewhere in the South this year.

All told, Bisognano wrote that “as many as 27 congressional districts across 13 different states could be reshaped ahead of the 2024 elections,” leaving more than a half-dozen states on the board for potential redraws in 2024. Those include Florida — where a judge earlier this week grilled attorneys for the state on the legality of a map pushed by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis that dismantled a stretching 200-mile seat that was majority Black.

Recent “victories do not mark the end of redistricting for the decade — they mark the start of the next chapter in the fight for fair maps,” the memo reads. “This fight isn’t coming, it’s happening right now and NDRC is the tip of the spear.”

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