National Press Club

Schwarzenegger says he wants to ‘terminate’ gerrymandering

March 26, 2019 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com

Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger receives a National Press Club all-purpose mug from Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak.

Former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger receives a National Press Club all-purpose mug from Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, wants to “terminate gerrymandering” and he is happy to have former Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democrat, as an ally in the effort.

Gerrymandering is the practice of trying to gain political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries often in ways that make no geographical sense.

“The very fact that both of us are sitting here today is because it is not a partisan issue. It is not a Democratic issue. It is not a Republican issue. Both parties have gerrymandered. It is the politicians that are the problem, not the party. We want to take the power back from the politicians,” Schwarzenegger, an actor famous for appearing in the “Terminator” series of movies, said at a National Press Club Newsmaker event on March 26.

Schwarzenegger and Holder, who met for the first time before the event, each argued that the existence of gerrymandering makes it hard to get anything done at both the state and federal levels.

“If you stay to the left or stay to the right you have no competition,” Schwarzenegger said. Holder agreed, noting that in a “gerrymandered system” politicians “guard against a primary challenge knowing [they] are not going to face any serious challenge” in the general election.

Holder is the leader of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is working to pass anti-gerrymandering initiatives before redistricting takes place in 2021.

Schwarzenegger began pushing for redistricting reform when he was governor of California and legislative leaders from both parties told him the one thing they agreed on was that the governor should not get involved in redistricting. This convinced him the issue was important so he began fighting for it. He wasn’t successful at first but given his “never-give-up attitude”, it eventually passed, he said.

California created a citizens commission comprised of five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents that now draws the legislative and congressional maps for the state. The maps were first used in 2012. Since California created its system, six other states have passed ballot initiatives to change the process to draw legislative and congressional districts: New York, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Missouri and Colorado.

The Club event was held following oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court on two cases involving gerrymandering. The maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina and the Democratic-controlled legislature in Maryland have both been challenged as being unconstitutional.

Schwarzenegger said some of the justices seemed reluctant to get involved in the issue because they did not want to appear partisan but Holder said “it is incumbent on the Supreme Court to look at our democracy.”

While Holder said that other issues like reforming the Electoral College are important for America’s democracy, Schwarzenegger said he is focused on saying “'hasta la vista, baby' to gerrymandering.”