Barack Obama is getting closer to making his public reappearance in politics, his friend and former Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday.
Holder said he’s been talking to the former president about ways — including fundraising and interacting with state legislators — that could help the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which Obama asked Holder to chair last year.
“It’s coming. He’s coming,” Holder said, speaking to reporters at a briefing for the new group. “And he’s ready to roll.”
Throughout, Holder said, Obama “will be a more visible part of the effort.”
Holder also predicted that the usual pattern of the party in the White House losing state legislative seats in off-year elections would hold next year, but “I expect we’ll see that on steroids with President Trump.”
The NDRC is looking to be an intensified central force for Democrats to tackle their disadvantage in gerrymandering. The mission is to direct resources into winning targeted state elections, push ballot initiatives for nonpartisan district-drawing commissions and wage legal challenges to existing maps. The hope is that this would put Democrats in a stronger position in state houses, but also in the U.S. House of Representatives, if districts are drawn that more accurately represent the distribution of the popular vote, citing statistics that showed Republicans winning 49 percent of the vote in those elections but getting 55 percent of the seats in the 2016 elections.
Marc Elias, a top election lawyer who’s advising the group, said that in addition to joining existing challenges to state laws, they’re already prospecting for states where they could file new lawsuits, predicting they’ll file more before the end of 2017.
Holder acknowledged that the work in the courts has gotten more difficult with Jeff Sessions now in his old job running the Justice Department. He called the department’s decision to scrap a challenge to voter laws in Texas on Monday “disheartening,” but said that while “it would be good to have the Justice Department on our side … it doesn’t mean that the argument can’t be made, and can’t be made well.”
“This is really a battle for our democracy,” Holder said. “The notion that people are denied their ability to cast a meaningful vote … is inconsistent with who we say we are, inconsistent with what we say our democracy is about.”