Obama’s army enlists in redistricting fight

Barack Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

Then-President Barack Obama speaks during a Organizing for Action event, on Nov. 9, 2015. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Organizing for Action, the progressive group born out of Barack Obama’s old campaign apparatus, is joining the redistricting effort that Obama has made a central cause of his post-presidency.

On Monday, OFA will officially launch a partnership with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Story Continued Below

OFA officially runs independently from Obama, but for this announcement, the former president is making it himself.

“OFA volunteers and supporters will provide the grassroots organizing capacity and mobilization that we’ll need to win state-level elections and move other initiatives forward ahead of the 2021 redistricting process, making sure that states are in the best position possible to draw fair maps,” Obama writes in an email set to go out to the OFA’s list that he’ll call “Our Next Fight.”

The conversations have been underway for several months, but the announcement comes as Obama is slated to appear at an OFA event in Chicago on Nov. 8, the anniversary of last year’s election, that will bring him together for a conversation with organizers and big donors for the group.

The NDRC has spent the past year fundraising and putting the pieces together in preparation for what it’s hoping will be a very active presence in the courts and on the campaign trail in 2018 and beyond —with some action in Virginia and New Jersey races this year — with the goal of changing the redistricting process to reverse the existing Republican tilt of maps in many states.

The results could significantly reshape the makeup of the House, as well as state legislatures.

“There is no better infrastructure out there to build in order to unleash the power of the people onto redistricting,” said NDRC executive director Kelly Ward, calling this “an awesome, seamless partnership.”

“It’s the support of President Obama’s network and the shared values that come with that that make it so seamless,” Ward said. “We are all in this together still.”

Obama and Holder have both campaigned in New Jersey and Virginia, and the NDRC put $500,000 into the Virginia governor’s race last month.

OFA, meanwhile, will start holding house parties, community meetings and conference calls geared to helping their organizers understand and internalize what gerrymandering is, and what the processes are for changing district maps in each state.

Katie Hogan, the executive director of OFA, said that some of their organizers had already started talking about redistricting and collecting ballot initiative signatures on their own.

“It’s really familiar work to us and not at all deviating to what we’ve done for years,” Hogan said.

Though OFA was very active in helping mobilize turnouts to town halls and other events as part of the resistance to Obamacare repeal efforts, this brings the group closer to direct political campaigns than it’s been since reconstituting after the 2012 election. As a 501c4, the group has the ability to get involved in politics if it choose too.

“We don’t have every single part of this mapped out,” Hogan said. “We do know that we are the best suited to play that public education role right now, and we’ll see where that takes us.”