Republicans are launching a new redistricting group with plans to fight more Democratic-drawn political maps in court, part of an expanded strategy to influence congressional and state legislative boundaries after the next census.
The organization, called the National Republican Redistricting Trust, will focus on data and legal efforts and “serve as a central resource to coordinate and collaborate” on redistricting for other party organizations and members, according to a memo announcing its formation.
Other Republican groups will continue their work on winning state offices that play a role in redistricting — which Republicans did to great effect in 2010, giving them control of the map-drawing process in close to half of states. But NRRT senior adviser Guy Harrison said there is “no doubt” Republicans will be more aggressive in court after 2020, with more resources and early planning at their disposal.
“We are definitely going to back lawsuits and push in any way possible to have an even playing field in redistricting, especially in states that have always been drawn by Democrats,” said Harrison, who directed the National Republican Congressional Committee during the last redistricting cycle. “We have failed to go on offense in the past in states like Illinois and Maryland where we can wage legal battles.”
Such litigation has recently been more of a hallmark of Democrats, who earlier this year launched their own redistricting group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Republicans were in charge of the redistricting process in more states after the 2010 census, and Democrats have since sued to overturn GOP-drawn maps in Texas, Virginia and other states, arguing that the maps were racially gerrymandered to dilute minority voting power.
Both parties are already determined to elect governors and state legislators who will have a hand in drawing future political maps, but they are also preparing behind the scenes for an array of state-by-state legal fights over redistricting in the years to come.
Challenging maps drawn by the other party is just one type of scenario. Courts could ultimately step in and draw maps in states where governors from one party and state legislatures controlled by another party cannot come to agreement on a plan, prompting more legal battles. And both parties might have to follow new guidelines regulating partisan gerrymandering, depending on the outcome of a Supreme Court case being argued next week.
The Democrats’ redistricting group charged that their opponents lack credibility on legal battles over political maps, citing court decisions against the GOP this decade, including some that have been appealed to the Supreme Court.
“Republicans don’t have a lack of coordinated resources, they have a lack of credibility on this issue. No amount of legal resources will change the fact that federal courts have ruled against their illegally gerrymandered maps in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Florida, and Virginia,” NDRC executive director Kelly Ward said in a statement.
The NRRT plans to raise $35 million by 2020 and has the backing of the Republican National Committee and the party’s groups focused on House, gubernatorial, attorney general and state legislative campaigns. The group’s formation was first reported by the Washington Examiner.
“Our job is redistricting. While they’re focusing on the politics, we’re moving on the legal and data aspects,” Harrison said. “When we get to drawing maps … they will have a lot of building blocks and tools available to them.”
Harrison is joined at the new redistricting trust by fellow senior advisers Jason Torchinsky, an attorney who worked in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division under the George W. Bush administration; Gail Gitcho, who was the communications director on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign; and Lauren Bryan, a fundraiser previously with the Republican Governors Association.
The NRRT is organized as a legal trust and will not have to disclose its donors, along the lines of the Democratic redistricting legal trust formed in 2010. It will not be contributing to political campaigns, unlike Democrats’ new redistricting hub, Harrison said, arguing that Republicans have strong party committees that don’t need additional help.
An arm of the NDRC, which is backed by former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder, recently donated $500,000 to the Virginia Democratic Party ahead of the 2017 elections there.
The NRRT’s other big task will be to gather, store and interpret voter data from across the country, including studying population trends that will affect how maps are drawn and which states stand to gain and lose districts after the 2020 Census.
“We’re going to do the basic science. Here’s the data, here’s the population growth,” said Harrison.