Obama file 2020
Washington CNN  — 

Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday said “the stakes could not be higher” for democracy as he skewered Republican redistricting efforts and attempts to codify voting restrictions in state laws.

Speaking at a virtual fundraiser benefiting the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Obama lamented Republican-led state legislatures for “passing laws designed to prevent American citizens from exercising their right to vote. And drawing congressional maps that drown out the voice of ordinary people.”

Following the 2020 Census, state-level Republicans have sought to draw favorable congressional maps while imposing new restrictions on voting, which could potentially tilt the landscape of next year’s midterm elections in the GOP’s favor. Both parties have a history of drawing maps to improve their standing in Congress and protect incumbents, but Republicans have been much more successful at it in recent decades.

In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state’s governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps. Because the GOP has been more successful at winning state legislatures in recent years, some estimates suggest Republicans at large will pick up the five seats needed for a House majority in 2022 simply by redrawing state congressional maps.

Obama emphasized the importance of redistricting to reflect a changing country, but he took aim at the GOP’s approach, saying, “Rather than argue, based on ideas, they are trying to tilt the playing field. And they aren’t even waiting for election day to do it. Their plan is to control state legislatures and congressional delegations before a single vote is cast. That is not how democracy is supposed to work.”

The former President went on to call the lack of federal voting right legislation “frustrating.”

“I know voting rights legislation in Congress hasn’t moved as quickly as any one of us would have liked. And when democracy is being threatened by one party, it’s frustrating to see the world’s greatest deliberative body deliberating instead of voting,” he said.

But Obama maintained that Democratic leaders are “continuing to work on a plan to get this done.”

“I never bet against (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi. (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer is committed to this. President (Joe) Biden is committed to this, making this work. So we’ve still got some work to do, but I still believe there is a path for making real progress in getting this voting rights law done and also making sure that the redistricting process concludes in a way that ensure fairness, and reduces partisanship and polarization,” he said.

The NDRC event also featured speeches from Pelosi and former Attorney General Eric Holder. The Democratic group, which is chaired by Holder, says it has “leveled the playing field” with Republicans on redistricting by “backing litigation, supporting reforms, and electing fair-map Democrats,” according to its website.