Since the election last year, the defining political fight in our country has not been over any one specific policy issue, but over the very nature of our democracy itself. One party has fallen in line behind a former president who spread lies about our electoral process and incited a deadly insurrection at the Capitol Building. Using those lies as a pretext, Republican state legislators have introduced more than 360 anti-voter bills under the phony idea that they are protecting “electoral integrity.”
Their side is willing to manipulate our democracy so politicians can decide who wins elections. Our side believes the people should have the freedom to choose who represents them.
Make no mistake: the Republican state legislators who have introduced these anti-voter bills will be the very same people who try to gerrymander themselves into power during the redistricting process this year. This is not speculation. They have already told us “Republicans draw maps that favor Republicans” and that they will draw maps to “secure a decade of conservative power.” Without question, the redistricting process is a key part of their plan to distort our democracy so they can hold onto power, regardless of what the voters think or want.
They plan to cheat their way to a majority in the House of Representatives and state legislatures by dramatically decreasing the number of districts that are responsive to voters. It is up to all of us to stop them.
While there has been a lot of coverage about how redistricting will be affected by the delay in census data, the reality is that the redistricting process unofficially kicks off by the end of next week. That’s when the Census Bureau will release “apportionment data” — the first results from the 2020 census that will include the total count of people in the country, which states have gained and lost population, and, most importantly for redistricting, how many seats each state will have in Congress for the next decade.
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee is the centralized hub for a comprehensive redistricting strategy, and we have been preparing for this moment. Over the past few years, we have built up grassroots infrastructure in key states, worked with partners to pass critical reforms that make the redistricting process less partisan and helped elect Democratic governors who will serve as a check on gerrymandered Republican state legislatures. Right now, we are working with state legislators across the country to ensure that Republicans do not use the delay in releasing redistricting data as a pretext to either cut the public out of the process or, even worse, try to hold the 2022 elections on old maps.
On the whole, we have shifted the balance of power away from Republicans in key states and are in a much stronger position heading into redistricting than we were last decade. That means Republicans will be focused on gerrymandering the final four big states where they still control the process: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. Those states will likely gain an additional six seats from apportionment, giving those legislatures control of drawing a combined 96 congressional districts. If Republicans are successful in that effort, it could cause Democrats to be underrepresented by as many as 12 seats that should be competitive with fair maps. This is their plan for gaining control of the House of Representatives in 2022: if they successfully manipulate the maps in these four states, they could win back the majority before a single vote is even cast.
Our job now is to stop that from happening.
Nationally, we are working with End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund and a whole range of organizations on a $30 million campaign to push the Senate to pass the For the People Act. This historic legislation would ban partisan gerrymandering and create non-partisan, independent commissions to draw congressional maps.
At the state level, it will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure fair maps. Our plan is to 1) engage the American people in the redistricting process to force transparency on the process and advocate for maps that truly represent their communities, 2) fight in the courts to protect the process and, if necessary, overturn gerrymandered maps and 3) hold elected officials accountable during the redistricting process and in the 2022 elections so politicians know they cannot manipulate the process to their own benefit.
After losing the White House, Senate and House of Representatives under President Trump, Republicans have shown they would rather bend or break our democracy than work to broaden their support among the American people. They will use the redistricting process to keep in place a broken system that allows politicians to handpick their voters instead of voters choosing their elected officials. We are fighting for a renewal of our democracy that ensures the people have the freedom to decide who wins elections.
That fight starts now, and we hope you’ll join us.
Kelly Ward Burton is the President of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.