'Fair maps': Barack Obama launches new initiative to help take on partisan gerrymandering

Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON -- Former President Barack Obama announced a new initiative to combat partisan redistricting on Monday, an issue that he says he has made a priority from his "2008 campaign until now."

"The movement for fair maps will determine the course of progress on every issue we care about for the next decade. And we can’t wait to begin organizing when the redistricting process starts in 2021. We need to build this movement from the ground up – right now,” a webpage for the new project, says quoting Obama

According to the website, the project -- named "Redistricting U" --  "is a free, in-person organizing training initiative" that sends "trainers to cities to train volunteers, giving them the tools to impact the redistricting process in their state and empower them to be leaders in the movement for fair maps.”

The All On The Line website describes the broader organization as a national campaign launched to “restore fairness to our democracy and ensure every American has an equal say in our government.”

The All On The Line campaign began after Organizing for Action, an Obama political organization, merged with his former Attorney General Eric Holder's group, the National Redistricting Action Fund. The merged organization, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), launched the All On The Line campaign.

In July 2018, Obama appeared in a view released by the NDRC  and said that "rethinking the way we draw our congressional districts" is vital to American democracy.

"It's why your district might be shaped like a corkscrew. But it’s also how a party gains more seats, while winning fewer votes. Which isn’t fair,” Obama said.

Despite growing concern about partisan redistricting among Democrats and progressives -- including at the highest echelons of the Democratic Party with the likes of Obama and Holder -- the Supreme Court ruled in late June that partisan election maps are constitutional despite their one-sided nature.

“How do you decide where the line is between acceptable partisanship and too much partisanship?” Chief Justice Roberts said from the bench in announcing the 5-4 opinion he'd penned, joined by the court's other conservatives.“At some point, it should occur to you that what you’ve been asked to do is not judging at all."

More: Supreme Court says federal courts cannot strike down partisan gerrymandering

The chief justice said the challengers from North Carolina, seeking to overturn a map drawn by the state's Republicans, and Maryland, seeking to overturn a map drawn by the state's Democrats, asked for “an unprecedented expansion of judicial power” that would have broad consequences. “There will be no end to the litigation,” he said.

But Justice Elena Kagan decried the ruling on behalf of the court's four liberals. "Of all the times to abandon the court's duty to declare the law, this was not the one," she said. "The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government."

Contributing: Richard Wolf

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Barack Obama launches initiative to take on partisan gerrymandering