“I wouldn't have signed up for this if it was an attempt to gerrymander for Democrats,” Holder said, adding that he believed Democrats didn't need gerrymandering because they are “right on the issues” and have “the support of the people.”
Holder's committee says that electing Democrats is one part of its four-part strategy to end gerrymandering, which also includes challenging gerrymanders in court, engaging voters in the redistricting process and enacting state-level reforms to ensure fairer congressional maps.
This creates an incentive for political parties to draw maps that disadvantage their opponents, especially in states where a single party has control over both the legislature and the governor's mansion.
That's exactly what happened in 2011: Republicans drew maps in a number of states that gave themselves an overwhelming partisan advantage relative to Democrats. In 2012, for instance, Republican House candidates in Wisconsin won less than 50 percent of the statewide popular House vote, but ended up with five of the state's eight House seats. In North Carolina, Republican House candidates earned less than 49 percent of the popular vote, but 13 of the state's 18 House seats.
A number of states, such as California, Arizona and New Jersey, have opted to put the redistricting process in the hands of an independent commission. Researchers have found that districts drawn by independent panels tend to be more competitive and show less partisan skew than those drawn by politicians. Voters have also grown increasingly distrustful of politician-drawn districts.
For the time being, however, Holder's group is focused primarily on putting Democrats in office rather than on changing existing laws. In part, that's because Republican-controlled state legislatures have balked at redistricting reform efforts.
In Pennsylvania, for instance, Republicans have refused to give a bipartisan redistricting reform bill a hearing. A number of reform proposals before the Republican-led North Carolina legislature are stalled in committee. In Arizona, meanwhile, Republicans are spearheading an attempt to change the rules governing the state's independent redistricting commission.
Would Democrats do a better job of promoting fair and competitive congressional elections, as Holder's group maintains?