The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), backed with millions of dollars in corporate funding, is launching a new redistricting project to help Republicans draw district maps that will advantage the GOP over the next decade.
The Right Lines 2020 project, launched this week, will focus attention on the RSLC target states, which are Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
“Join our fight to keep socialists from drawing Congressional maps,” reads the Right Lines 2020 website.
According to RSLC “as few as 49 state legislative seats could determine as much as a 146-seat swing in the U.S. House for the next 10 years.”
RSLC spends tens of millions of dollars every election cycle supporting Republicans in state legislative elections. It will focus its spending in 2020 – raised from major U.S. corporations – aiming to secure control of state legislatures that will determine the drawing of district maps for state and congressional elections.
“The RSLC is planning multi-million dollar investments in key states where the legislature controls or has a key role in the drawing of new congressional and state district maps,” the group wrote announcing the project.
RSLC is a 527 organization, able to raise and spend unlimited funds from corporate and wealthy individual donors. According to financial disclosures reviewed by Documented, donors to RSLC so far in 2019 have included the Judicial Crisis Network ($1,000,000), Chevron ($200,000), Marathon Petroleum ($200,115), Astellas Pharma ($135,338), Wal-Mart Stores ($100,369), Koch Industries ($101,000), and Farmers Group ($100,000).
RSLC ran a similar redistricting project a decade ago, then called REDistricting MAjority Project (REDMAP). The project is widely perceived as having helped position Republicans to draw highly favorable maps, enabling them to secure power in many states over the past decade. The Tea Party wave in 2010 flipped the control of many key state legislatures to the Republicans, just when states would be empowered to draw new maps. According to RSLC, at least 19 legislative bodies flipped to Republican control in 2010.
The impact of redistricting was clearly evident in the last election cycle.
In Wisconsin, the Democrats won every state-wide race on the ballot in 2018. These were the races where the Republican-drawn maps from 2011 wouldn’t have any impact. But when Democrats had to run in districts drawn by the GOP, the impact was obvious. Despite Democrats winning 54% of the total state Assembly votes, the Republicans received 63 of the 99 seats.
Similarly in the Michigan House election, Democrats got 52% of the vote in 2018, but Republicans received 53% of the seats.
In North Carolina, Democrats got 50% of the votes for the state Senate in 2018, but only received 42% of the seats. The Democrats received 50.5% of the votes in the state house elections, but only received 45% of the seats.
RSLC spent $30 million on its REDMAP project in 2010. This, according to RSLC, included $1.1 million in Wisconsin, $1m in Michigan, and more than $1.2m in North Carolina. RSLC has already promised to raise and spend $125m on its redistricting project this time around.
The stakes could hardly be higher in the upcoming election cycle. According to RSLC, “the victor in this clash could hold the keys to Congress for a decade.”
Partisan redistricting maps often end up in the courts. In June, the Supreme Court ruled in a split 5-4 decision that partisan gerrymandering was beyond the scope of the federal courts.
That decision means state courts are the only venue remaining to bring legal challenges. On September 2, 2019, a state court in Raleigh, North Carolina did what the Supreme Court refused to do, rejecting the maps drawn by Republicans in that state.
The RSLC has another project focused on state judicial elections, called the Judicial Fairness Initiative. The initiative spends millions of dollars, (again, funded by corporations) to help secure seats for friendly judges on state court benches, hoping to avoid rulings like the one that just happened in North Carolina.
Photo of a rally to end gerrymandering held outside the Supreme Court on March 26, 2019. Photo by Victoria Pickering. Used under creative commons license.