By Attorney General Eric Holder
In my travels across the country, I often hear from people upset about a controversial action taken by their state legislature. Whether it’s manipulated electoral lines, cuts in the number of early voting days or restrictions on reproductive health care, these concerned citizens all ask me some form of the same question: “What can we do to fix this?”
One remedy is filing a lawsuit. That can be expensive and can take a long time. For example, earlier this year, federal courts ordered new maps drawn for 11 House of Delegates districts between Richmond and Tidewater in Virginia because they were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. It’s great that Virginians will finally have the opportunity to vote on fair maps this November, but the people in those districts were forced to vote on unfair maps for nearly a decade.
The truth is, the best way to fight back against right-wing legislation and attacks on our democracy is to stop them before they ever get enacted. That means we need to replace the people like that who sit in state legislatures and rebuild our democracy from the local level up.
Republicans swept into power at the state and local level in 2010 and then used that power to ruthlessly and unconscionably manipulate maps during the redistricting process in 2011. The result of their effort was immediate and has been enduring. For years, Republicans in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and a handful of other states have been able to hold onto majorities in their state legislatures and congressional delegations even when Democrats win more votes. To make matters even worse, gerrymandering has allowed them to cater to special interests and to the extremes of their party, while ignoring the people they’re supposed to represent.
With redistricting set to occur in 2021, we are at a turning point in America. Will we elect Democrats at the state and local level in 2019 and 2020 who will support fair maps that will be in place for the next decade? Or will Republicans gerrymander themselves into power again — leading to more polarization and gridlock? We must support and elect Democrats committed to a fair redistricting process if we want to have an America that truly values the ideals upon which the nation was founded.