The National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT) announced Thursday that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would help lead the organization as co-chairs. This move comes as both Republicans and Democrats prepare for coming battles over redistricting in the wake of over a year of partisan debate over election laws.
NRRT describes its mission as “coordinat[ing] the GOP’s 50-state redistricting effort.” The group is very new, having been formed in 2017 as a response to the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC). Both groups formed with the intention of preparing for the first redistricting since President Barack Obama.
On its landing page, NRRT explains its fears should Democrats take the upper hand in redistricting.
“Democrats will stop at nothing to gerrymander Democrats into permanent majorities,” it warns. “[Democrats] believe the courts should pick the winners and losers in our elections and that the ultra-liberal representatives they put into office will pass their radical left-wing agenda.”
Turning to its newly appointed co-chairs, the organization says, “Governor Chris Christie and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo know how important it is that we fight back against the Democrats’ nationwide power grab.”
Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist, will also be working with NRRT as an adviser.
Democrats, who have since before the 2020 election accused Republicans of voter suppression, consider controlling redistricting to be extremely important. To many Democrats, redistricting is only one of many ways that Republicans are trying to suppress the votes of minorities.
One such concern came from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), sponsor of the controversial “For the People” elections bill. The bill would give an unelected federal panel the ability to approve or reject state redistricting schemes with a majority vote.
Because of opposition from Republicans, Merkley saw a great risk of the legislation being filibustered. In a CBS interview, Merkley warned that Democrats must abolish the filibuster to pass the bill or Republicans would bring about an “election Armageddon.”
Other Democrats—like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.)—have compared Republican election efforts to a kind of “new Jim Crow.”
Democrats warn that voter ID requirements and restrictions on mail-in and absentee ballots are a thinly disguised attempt to suppress the votes of minorities.
Republicans, meanwhile, have expressed concerns that ongoing Democratic election legislation efforts constitute a power grab from the party and from the federal government.
On the Senate floor before its August recess, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) objected to the federal redistricting committee in the For the People Act. He argued that the Founders knew that redistricting would be abused. He pointed out that the word “gerrymander” was derived from the skewed districts created by Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry. Cruz states that although redistricting on partisan grounds is bad, the same would happen in an appointed committee and would be worse since citizens would not be able to vote them out.
At an emergency session of the House on Aug. 24, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused Democrats of trying to “rig an election” with their ongoing legislative efforts.
This round of redistricting will be the first since the Supreme Court shot down a major provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The provision required certain states—mostly Southern states—to get federal preclearance before changing election laws. In 2013, in the case of Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court ruled that provision to be unconstitutional.
In the wake of this decision, and in the wake of widespread skepticism about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, many states with Republican legislatures that were formerly required to get federal preclearance have now moved to put in place stricter election laws.