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Obama political arm to merge with Holder-run group
President Obama's political organization is merging with Eric Holder's National Redistricting Action Fund, giving it control of the vaunted list of supporters, donors and volunteers that Obama and his team built over more than a decade.
Organizing for Action (OFA) will fold itself into the Holder-run group, and the merged organization, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), will kick off a campaign, dubbed All On The Line, to promote redistricting reform and participation in the 2020 Census.
The efforts ahead of the decennial reapportionment and redistricting process that begins next year, and that will have a major effect on the apportionment of electoral college votes and congressional districts.
"The integration of OFA with NDRC, into our redistricting effort, is going to help us have activists all over the country who are fighting for fair maps and more representative democracy," Holder told The Hill in an interview. "The integration of OFA with NDRC is an organizational action, and it's really just designed to effectuate that which OFA has always stood for, which is to engage citizens at the local level."
Obama himself previewed the evolution of his former political organization in December, when he said redistricting reform represented an "opportunity to bend the great arc of history toward justice."
The group is planning its first big organizing event for March 23, when it will ask supporters to host All On The Line house parties across the country.
Holder's expanded group will be run by John Bisognano. NDRC's former executive director, Kelly Ward, is transitioning to a big-picture role as president, a spokesman said.
While the merger represents a transfer of one of the most valuable commodities in American politics, Holder said he would be legally precluded from using it for his own political purposes.
Holder is still considering a run for president, a decision he said he would make in short order, and he said the merger is not an indication that he is leaning one way or the other.
"This is not about any one person's political objectives or anything like that," Holder said. "I think I'm going to make a decision about what I'm going to do with regard to a potential run for the presidency in the next three weeks or so."
The new larger group will hire staff and train volunteers and activists in 10 states at the heart of legal fights over fair ways to draw U.S. House and state legislative district boundaries: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona and Texas.
Four of those states - Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Arizona - will have the power to draw new district lines using bipartisan commissions. Holder said his group would train activists to defend those commissions, and to advocate before the commissions in order to win district lines they see as fair.
"This is not only an affirmative effort on our part, it's a protective effort," he said.
Holder also said his group would push to improve turnout during the census, which takes place about a year from now. He said he was concerned that the Trump administration would not do all that is necessary to count everyone living in the United States.
"They're going to try to suppress the count in certain communities," Holder said. "The census is the foundation for a fair redistricting effort."
Republicans controlled the entire redistricting process in seven of the 10 targeted states after the 2010 census. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year ruled that Republicans had improperly drawn some districts, resulting in a new map in which Democrats and Republicans split the commonwealth's 18 U.S. House districts evenly.
In the remaining six states drawn by Republican hands, Republicans hold 65 seats and Democrats hold 35; one seat, previously held by former Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), is currently in dispute.
"It's only by cheating, that's the reality, have [Republicans] been able to maintain control of Congress," Holder said. "Everybody, including Democrats, including Republicans, has to be prepared for elections that are going to be more contested."