The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC) was incorporated in the fall of 2016 as a tax-exempt “Section 527 Committee,” a term referring to the section of the IRS tax code that governs such entities. As Open Secrets.org explains, “These groups are typically … organized for the purpose of influencing an issue, policy, appointment or election … [and] can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations or labor unions, but they must register with the IRS and disclose their contributions and expenditures.”
NDRC’s mission is to help Democrats to take control of the gerrymandering process that determines how state legislative and congressional districts are configured, and to thereby gain and keep majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as statehouses across the country. In 42 U.S. states, the state legislature has primary control over how the districts are drawn. Typically, the boundary lines are agreed upon just like regular legislation, where majority votes in each legislative chamber are subject to a veto by the governor. Of the remaining eight states, most employ an independent commission to draw both state and federal district lines.
During the Democratic National convention in July 2016, a number of party leaders laid the groundwork for NDRC’s creation by pitching the idea to major left-wing donors. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján were central to this effort.
From its inception, NDRC was intent on trying to compensate for the fact that from 2008-15, Democrats had lost 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House of Representatives seats, 913 state legislative seats, 32 state legislative chambers, and 11 governorships. To address this problem, says the American Thinker, NDRC’s founders devised a game-plan where they would: (a) take advantage of “the data-mining capabilities of all the Silicon Valley Big Money corporatist allies of the Democrats” to “assembl[e] masses of data from Google, Facebook, and others”; and (b) use that data to “put together districts micro-targeted with just enough Democrats to win,” while shifting Republican voters “into 90% [Democratic] majority districts, shut out forever from control of state legislatures and the House of Representatives.”
In pursuit of these objectives, NDRC employs a multi-faceted approach that includes strategizing, collaboration, advertising, fundraising, get-out-the-vote campaigns, ballot initiatives, and legal challenges to state redistricting maps. “We’re developing a comprehensive, unified plan that represents tactically the way we increase Democratic power in the next redistricting that’s state specific,” said NDRC senior adviser Mark Schauer, a former Michigan congressman, in 2016. “By 2017, we’ll speak with one voice under the auspices of the NDRC to big donors around the country, pointing them to the best ways to impact redistricting.”
NDRC scheduled its initial efforts as an active organization to commence in December 2016, with an eye toward influencing the Virginia and New Jersey state elections of the following year. After that, the group’s activities would expand to include also gubernatorial, state legislative, and House races going into the 2018 midterms. “The gubernatorial candidates who win in 2017 and 2018 are the ones who’ll be in office to approve the maps for the 2022 elections, put together by the state legislators elected along with them,” said Politico in October 2016.
NDRC was developed in close consultation with the Barack Obama administration. President Obama himself candidly stated that the Committee’s agenda would become the main focus of his own activities after leaving the White House.
The president of NDRC is Democratic Governors Association executive director Elisabeth Pearson; its vice president is House Majority PAC executive director Ali Lapp; and its chairman is former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who said in 2016: “American voters deserve fair maps that represent our diverse communities — and we need a coordinated strategy to make that happen. This unprecedented new effort [NDRC] will ensure Democrats have a seat at the table to create fairer maps after 2020.”
Further Reading: “Obama, Holder to Lead Post-Trump Redistricting Campaign” (Politico, 10-17-2016); “All About Redistricting” (Loyola Law School); “Obama’s Post-Presidency Political Focus: Redistricting” (Washington Post, 10-17-2016); “Eric Holder Named to Lead Effort to Destroy GOP After Hillary Wins the Presidency” (American Thinker, 10-17-2016).