December 30, 2016

Last night subbing for Rachel Maddow, Ari Melber interviewed Kelly Ward, who has been tapped to help Barack Obama and Eric Holder push a nationwide redistricting effort for the Democratic Party.

It's about time.

Melber points out that Republicans have been very effective in redistricting themselves into a "permanent" majority in the House of Representatives and also state houses across the country. It's just one more form of voter suppression and anti-democratic (small d) election rigging that allows Republicans to win.

And some of it is just plain illegal.

This is what Barack Obama wants to work on post-Presidency.


KELLY WARD: [Obama] is very committed to rebuilding the party from the ground up and that includes the local races, the legislative races, it also includes making sure that redistricting happens in a fair way. We've seen Republicans rig the system with their gerrymandering, often illegal gerrymandering. President Obama knows firsthand the impact of that. He's been dealing with a Congress where the Tea Party Republicans elected in these very conservative unfair districts have a stranglehold on the process and where they have made obstruction their entire strategy against him. And their gerrymandering is part of why they're doing that and how they're maintaining that control. So he has seen firsthand the impact and now we're thrilled as a Democratic Party and for our country that in his post-Presidency he's focusing on this and making it a priority.

ARI MELBER: Yet the flip side which people who are in the Democratic Party sometimes talk about and certainly a lot of progressive reformers talk about is just adding more gerrymandering isn't necessarily good and some Democrats have caught on to that. Take a look at, for example, the Florida fifth district is drawn in a weird way. That is not contiguous, not a community, nothing you'd draw like that. But Karim Brown fought to keep it that way after the Republicans redrew it that way. Are you also going to be defending those kind of maps?

WARD: Well, our goal is to make sure that the process is fair, that Democrats have a seat at the table and that Democrats can compete on a fair playing field. And we have not seen that because of the Republican gerrymandering. And Florida is a perfect example of this. The Florida voters passed an initiative giving the legislature boundaries for drawing the maps and the Republican legislators completely ignored those regulations put on them by the voters and passed what was then later determined to be an illegal map.

And in fact, four of the nine seats that Democrats picked up in the house in 2016 were because of redistricting lawsuits that overturned illegal Republican maps including in Florida. And we know that when that happens, Democrats do better, Democrats normally pick up more seats when the process is more fair, Democrats do better, and that's really our goal. And that's what we'll stay focused on.

MELBER: Right. Majority rule system would be that just a return to a more beneficial to the Democratic party and defensible to those thinking about it ethically if it is democratic and not sort of rigged. Kelly Ward, Interim Executive Director of the Redistricting Committee. It's a mouthful. It sounds more boring than it is important, yet I think we've discussed why it is important. Thank you for joining us tonight.

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