Barack Obama is working with a group that targets Republican extremists who, as a result of the election of President Trump, feel safe in their districts

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall and Tierney McAfee
May 17, 2017 12:45 PM

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is doing his part with the “resistance” against President Donald Trump by leading the charge against political gerrymandering.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), which then-President Obama asked Holder to chair last year, aims to win back state legislative seats for Democrats in the 2018 election and beyond.

“There are people dissatisfied with this new administration and trying to find ways in which they can channel that dissatisfaction, that sense of disquiet, into concrete action,” Holder tells PEOPLE. “As they’ve learned about what we’re doing with the NDRC, they’ve said, ‘All right, this is a place that I can spend my time, that I can contribute and be an effective part of what has been termed the resistance.’ ”

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Credit: Jean Lachat/University of Chicago

Holder says the organization is specifically targeting Republican extremists who, as a result of the election of President Trump, feel safe in their districts. The NDRC’s website says that “Republican gerrymandered districts after the 2010 Census have put Democrats at a massive structural disadvantage. That’s why the most important turning point for the future of the Democratic Party will take place in 2021: when states redraw their congressional and state legislative lines.”


The organization is using a “targeted, state-by-state strategy” to help the Democratic Party create “fairer maps” in the 2021 redistricting process. “With fairer maps, Democrats can rebuild the party from the state level, and secure a stable federal majority for the decade to come,” the NDRC’s website says.

“Politicians shouldn’t pick their voters. Voters are supposed to be picking their representatives,” Holder tells PEOPLE. “We’ve seen, in recent years, some extreme gerrymandering that caters to what I call political extremes and leads to what we’ve seen here in Washington, D.C., which is political dysfunction.”

“That’s why we talked about this effort,” he adds of Obama. “Our conversations about it kind of crystallized, I guess, around the time of the Democratic convention. I was asked by him and others to chair the effort, and I made the determination that this would be a good use of my time.”

The former president is also expected to play a big role in supporting — and fund-raising for — Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.

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“We want to have a Congress that reflects the will of the voters,” Holder says. “If you look at the last cycles, you see that Democrats have gotten more votes in the House of Representatives than Republicans have, and yet [we] have fewer congressmen who are Democrats serving in the House.”

“If you want to have an effective system of government, and so the checks and balances can work, one of the core things that you have to have is a Congress that reflects the will of the voters. Because of gerrymandering, that is not the case.”