Obama-backed committee targeting races in 11 states

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FILE- In this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo, former President Barack Obama address the participants at a summit on climate change involving mayors from around the globe in Chicago. A Democratic group backed by former President Barack Obama plans to invest millions of dollars in state-level elections in a dozen states this year, with its heaviest focus on Ohio. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) A Democratic group backed by former President Barack Obama said this week it plans to invest millions of dollars in state-level elections in 11 states this year, with its heaviest focus on Ohio.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said this year's election cycle is critical to affecting the congressional redistricting process. It is the first cycle whose winners will participate in drawing congressional maps for the decade starting in 2021.

The push comes amid bipartisan national concern that political gerrymandering, the process of drawing maps that benefit one party over another, has led to partisanship, gridlock and incivility in Washington.

"In 2011, Republicans created gerrymandered districts that locked themselves into power and shut out voters from the electoral process," Holder said in announcing the group's electoral targets on Wednesday. "By focusing on these state and local races, we can ensure Democrats who will fight for fairness have a seat at the table when new maps are drawn in 2021."

The group is targeting races in 11 states, including nine gubernatorial races, 18 legislative chambers, two ballot initiatives and two down-ballot races. Eight more states are on the committee's watch list.

In Ohio, a perennial political battleground, the committee plans to support Democrats for five offices governor, auditor, secretary of state, Ohio Senate and Ohio House as well as pushing a redistricting ballot measure.

Other target races include:

Colorado: Governor, state Senate

Florida: Governor, state Senate

Georgia: Governor, state Senate

Michigan: Governor, state Senate, state House, ballot initiative

Minnesota: Governor, state Senate, state House

Nevada: Governor, state Senate, state House

North Carolina: State Senate, state House

Pennsylvania: Governor, state Senate, state House

Texas: State Senate, state House

Wisconsin: Governor, state Senate

The group also participated in the Virginia House last year, and has targeted both its House and Senate in 2019.

On its watch list are ballot initiatives in Arizona, Missouri, South Dakota and Utah; the governor's and state Senate races in Maine; and the governor's, state Senate and state House races in New Hampshire.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, also has been championing redistricting reforms, including working with fellow Republican, movie star and ex-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminate Gerrymandering Crowdpac.

Ohio lawmakers sent a bipartisan redistricting compromise to the statewide May ballot in a vote this week.

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