Rethinking Redistricting

08/18/2006 10:00 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tip O'Neill said it best: All politics is local. And at no time have those words rung more true than in 2003, when the GOP - census and history be damned - redrew Texas congressional districts for pure partisan gain.

The Texas Republican power grab that year - upheld by the Supreme Court in 2006 - netted the GOP five House seats. Meanwhile, some suggested redrawing lines in various states to offset the Texas losses and show the GOP that two could play the redistricting game.

Unfortunately, it was just talk. And Democrats stood down as the GOP once again altered the rules to their favor. That is, until now. Yesterday, in Nashville, TN, AFSCME announced the creation of Foundation for the Future - a new 527 group we are creating in partnership with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and NCEC Services.

The mission of the Foundation for the Future is to help Democrats prepare for the congressional redistricting fights that will occur in a few short years.

The stakes are high. Over the next decade, 36 state legislatures will determine congressional district maps - and of these, 20 have at least one chamber within four seats of changing hands.

Legislators serving in these 20 states will have the opportunity to wield tremendous influence. They will map the outlines of 195 congressional districts. A flip of about 50 state legislative seats in key chambers could mean a gain of up to 15 Democratic seats in Congress.

The Foundation for the Future will help legislators accomplish this goal in several ways:

First, the Foundation for the Future will help legislators identify where Democrats can influence the redistricting process to their advantage - and then decide the best means to achieve that goal - be it electorally, through nonpartisan commissions, ballot initiatives or litigation.

Second, the Foundation will use computer data to analyze existing districts, voting patterns, demographic trends and potential district lines. It will then develop a political strategy to influence important redistricting decisions.

And finally, the Foundation for the Future will begin immediately countering current Republican gerrymandering activity. This is the earliest that Democrats and their supporters have ever plotted a strategy for redistricting. We are determined to get it right.

The Foundation for the Future comes at a time when Democrats have the momentum. Democrats have gained state legislative seats in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. In 2004, Democrats netted 45 state legislative seats and pushed 10 chambers within striking distance of Democratic control.

We have witnessed the detrimental effects of the GOP's redistricting campaign. Congress continues to lurch rightward, leaving the vast majority of the American electorate far behind. We have a lot of ground to make up - and there's no better time than now to act on an aggressive redistricting strategy.