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After Republicans' Redistricting Gains, Democratic State Legislatures Look To Compete


This past week, a federal court ruled that Republican-drawn districts for Wisconsin state legislature are unconstitutional. The case could go on to the Supreme Court, and that could be good news for Democrats who have been struggling to hold on to power in the states. In 2010, Republicans swept state legislatures around the country and then redrew districts in a way that favored their party, especially in House races. Jessica Post is executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Her job is to win back state legislatures. She says that even though Democrats did not get most of the seats they were targeting in 2016, they did have some successes.

JESSICA POST: We won back both chambers in Nevada, the Nevada Assembly and the Nevada Senate, and the New Mexico House. And in a key growth state like Nevada, we were really delighted to have those results. But I will say that we were surprised by some of the tide that happened. I think having Trump at the top of the ticket changed a lot of things. And the other thing is we continue to be under- financially resourced compared to our Republican counterpart. And that's one key thing. We need to do better on that front to be more competitive nationally.

WERTHEIMER: What does the Democratic Party need to do if it wants to make progress toward retaking some of the legislatures that used to be democratic in the states?

POST: I think some of it's happening naturally. We're already talking about ways we can get to a stronger economic message. I think we also need to make sure we're recruiting strong candidates. I think we did that in the 2016 cycle. Many of them are stepping up to run again. But there's many more people that are coming out of the woodwork that want to run for their state legislatures and make some meaningful changes.

WERTHEIMER: If you turn state legislatures to Democratic control in 2020, will you look around at the legislatures the Democrats control and redraw districts?

POST: I think these lines would be redrawn to be more fair. If you look at states where Democrats have controlled, we see much more fair, apportioned lines as we go into the following election cycles.

WERTHEIMER: What does fair mean to you? More Democrats?

POST: I think it means that Democrats in communities of color aren't packed into specific snakelike districts. They go across states. If you look at the district boundaries in a state like Michigan or in Wisconsin or in North Carolina, you'll see that disparate communities and cities have been chopped in half to intentionally pack Democratic voters in specific areas. And so if we can move to a standard of redistricting where people aren't packed in and stacked into specific areas, that would certainly be much better.


POST: I think it would allow fairer representation. And when I say that, I mean that in many states, you saw a huge shift where districts could only be won by a Democrat or only be won by a Republican. And so here in my home state of Missouri, for example, there's only a handful of districts that are in fact competitive. Some of them are solidly Republican-controlled. I'm sitting in one right now. And others are solidly Democratic-controlled. So the voters have much less of a stake when the politicians are picking their own voters instead of voters picking politicians.

WERTHEIMER: Jessica Post is executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Thank you for speaking to us.

POST: Thank you so much, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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