Redistricting on Obama’s agenda

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

With fewer than 100 days left to serve, President Barack Obama’s post-White House career is coming into focus. He will team up with former Attorney General Eric Holder to lead the Democrats in a fight against gerrymandering.

Holder will chair an effort called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Its main goal will be to organize in time for the 2020 Census round of redistricting that could consolidate the lopsided advantage the Republicans enjoy, despite being outregistered by Democrats. Using lawsuits to bust up gerrymandered majorities, the Democrats are gearing up for many battles in state and federal courts.

Obama and Holder plan to pay special attention to state legislatures, judicial elections and ballot initiatives because that’s where partisan gerrymandering that impacts the national map begins.

The Democrats’ effort against gerrymandering is, in a narrow sense, politically self-serving. And it’s historical fact that the civil rights movement encouraged the creation of “majority-minority districts” to help bring more African-Americans into office.

Yet the party leadership under Obama and Holder have correctly identified a big problem in the heart of our democracy — noncompetitive seats that feed partisan gridlock. Ideally, every district should be competitive with candidates from the major parties duking it out for votes, issue by issue.

“Safe seats” give too many advantages to the incumbent, regardless of party affiliation. Restoring competition and balance shouldn’t be seen as partisan. If the effort is just an attempt to exchange one majority with another for narrow partisan advantage, then there would be nothing to cheer about. But for right now, striving for balance, fairness and accountability in redistricting is the right thing to do.

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