Obama Unveils New Education Campaign On Redistricting Issues

Introductory session by President Barack Obama during the Napoleons 2018 at Maison de la Radio on December 2, 2017 in Paris, France. "Les Napoleons" is a professional network of more than 3000 industry and communications players.
August 27, 2019 2:32 p.m.

Former President Barack Obama put his name on yet another redistricting reform effort ahead of the 2021 map-drawing cycle.

Obama on Monday announced “Redistricting U,” an education campaign being led by the group All On the Line. All On the Line’s parent organization is affiliated with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the Eric Holder-led effort that Obama has also endorsed.

“For Redistricting U, All On The Line is sending dedicated trainers to cities across the country to train volunteers, give them the skills and tools they need to impact the redistricting process, empower them as leaders in the movement for fair maps, and hear their ideas about approaches that will work best in their communities,” Obama said in a fundraising email announcing the new campaign.

Saumya Narechania, All On The Line’s campaign manager and advocacy director, told TPM  that his group was organizing multiple waves of training sessions to mobilize grassroots activists around the issue.

The first wave of trainings — in-person, half-day sessions — will take place this fall in roughly two dozen locations, Narechania said.

There are 10 states in particular the group is targeting — most of them purple states or red states Democrats hope to turn purple. Narechania said participants will learn the basics of the redistricting process and the ins-and-outs of how it works in their state. The trainings will also discuss messaging around redistricting issues and how to develop action plans in the specific communities.

Those activists may go on to offer public comments in the redistricting process, specifically in states with independent commissions, or pressure their state legislators to adopt or reject certain maps.

The campaign is one of several new initiatives that redistricting reform advocates have launched ahead of the next round of map-drawing, which will occur after the 2020 census. Republicans dominated the last round of redistricting and in several states, like North Carolina and Wisconsin, locked in maps that gave them overwhelming majorities in the legislatures even as the statewide vote was much closer.

Rather than seek equivalent Democratic gerrymanders (which, to be fair, do exist in states like Maryland), the National Democratic Redistricting Committee says it’s supporting candidates who have pledged to make map-drawing fairer.

Republicans meanwhile have put up their own group, the Scott Walker-led National Republican Redistricting Trust, that has sought to block reform efforts and protect GOP-tilted maps.

Walker issued a statement Tuesday calling Redistricting U a “sham.”

Walker’s statement appeared to allude to reporting suggesting that Obama, as an Illinois state legislator, redrew his district to include the donor base that helped propel his 2004 U.S. Senate run

“He’s the only President in the past 40 years to gerrymander his way to the Presidency,” Walker said. “America’s only modern gerrymanderer-in-chief is now trying to convince the American people that he’s against his own redistricting practices.”

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