President Obama used his last State of the Union address to push for national voting reforms and went off script to specifically call for bipartisan groups to draw new congressional districts instead of lawmakers. “I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around,” he said before veering from his prepared remarks to add: “Let a bipartisan group do it.” In recent days, aides to the president had said he was concerned about gerrymandering, the flood of money in politics and other barriers to voter participation.
In his speech, Obama declared that he plans to agitate for change, including reducing the influence of money “so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.” Obama did not specify how to institute such measures – but he promised to hit the campaign trail to promote them.
“This is America. We want to make it easier for people to participate,” Obama said. “And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.”
In most states, legislators have control over the drawing of congressional districts, often leading to poltically safe districts that protect incumbents. That is a problem for Democrats, who have seen a thinning in their ranks in state legislatures around the country.