Eric Holder Refused To Join Nonpartisan Gerrymandering Reform Effort

Holder said he supports 'nonpartisan commissions to draw electoral lines so neither party benefits'

Former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
August 13, 2021

Former attorney general Eric Holder has refused to work on bipartisan gerrymandering reform in Maryland, even though he runs an advocacy organization that calls for an end to partisan redistricting.

Maryland Republican governor Larry Hogan appointed a bipartisan redistricting commission in January to address his state's bizarrely shaped congressional districts, which he called the most gerrymandered in the nation. Hogan's office confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that the governor has asked Holder to coordinate on bipartisan redistricting reform in recent years but that the former attorney general declined to help. Holder is the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization he founded with former president Barack Obama that opposes Republican redistricting efforts across the country.

The 2020 census released this week sparked a renewed debate over gerrymandering after Republican-controlled states gained seats in Congress. Hogan called out Obama's attorney general for failing to help Maryland redraw its districts. "Gerrymandering is wrong, no matter who does it," Hogan tweeted Friday at Holder. "Maryland has the worst gerrymandering in America. I've unilaterally relinquished my power to draw maps to the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission. Will you support this independent, non-partisan commission?"

Holder, who in 2019 wrote in a letter to the Wall Street Journal that he advocates for "citizens or nonpartisan commissions to draw electoral lines so neither party benefits," has remained silent on gerrymandering efforts from Democrats in states such as Maryland. He has, however, criticized similar efforts from Republicans in Texas and other states. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee pledge calls for an end to "map manipulation" and partisan districting. Holder, however, has ignored the explicitly political way in which Maryland has drawn maps. Democratic former governor Martin O'Malley, who presided over the gutting of the Sixth District, admitted that redistricting was fueled by partisan motives. "It was also my intent to create … a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican," O'Malley said in response to a 2013 lawsuit.

Maryland is home to some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, according to both Hogan and liberal experts. The liberal Brennan Center for Justice criticized Maryland's Sixth Congressional District, represented by Democrat David Trone, as one of the most extreme examples of partisan redistricting in the nation. "The Maryland Sixth is an example of a district that deserves close examination to ensure that district lines were not redrawn purely on the basis of partisan motives," the group wrote in 2019. A federal judge compared Maryland's Third Congressional District, which is represented by Democrat John Sarbanes and covers four counties and the city of Baltimore, to a "broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state."

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee did not respond to a request for comment.