Facing long odds at retaking the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats are pushing hard for redistricting reform as a potential route back into control of the lower chamber. The legislation is not new –– many Democrats, including Pelosi, have been advocating for independent redistricting panels for at least a decade –– nor is it going anywhere in a Congress led by Republicans who are benefitting handsomely under the current process. But Pelosi’s co-sponsorship of this year’s reform proposal marks a rare move for a party leader who seldom lends an official signature to individual bills. Her formal endorsement is both an escalation of support for non-partisan redistricting and an indication that Democratic leaders want to rein in gerrymandering and lay the groundwork for reform heading into the 2016 elections.
It may also be a tacit acknowledgement that the current map gives the Democrats little chance of regaining the Speaker’s gavel before the next national census, in 2020.
Party leaders have repeatedly noted that the Democrats won the popular vote in 2012, even as Republicans retained a commanding House majority. Redrawing the map, in that context, is seen as crucial to winning back the chamber.
“Democrats are fixated on the point that, if districts had been more on the level, we would have won back the House in 2012,” said one former House Democrat. “So gauging the map becomes an imperative.”