Barack Obama has announced that he is backing a new initiative to reduce the influence of gerrymandering in the US.
The former president launched Redistricting U, a free training initiative to give volunteers the tools needed to impact redistricting in their state and make the process fairer, says CNN.
Redistricting is the process of drawing lines between electoral district boundaries in the US, similar to redrawing House of Commons constituency boundaries in the UK. Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing these lines in ways which advantage one party over another.
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Obama said in a statement: “The movement for fair maps will determine the course of progress on every issue we care about for the next decade.
“And we can’t wait to begin organising when the redistricting process starts in 2021. We need to build this movement from the ground up – right now.”
The announcement represents a rare political intervention from Obama, who has kept a relatively low profile since Donald Trump took office, making only occasional public appearances and comments.
Since leaving the White House, he and wife Michelle, who still live in Washington D.C., have popped up in some unexpected places. Last year, the former president attended the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa, to deliver what he described as his “most important” speech since leaving the White House in January 2017.
Along with the odd public engagements, the couple have also signed book deals believed to total more than £30m. The former first lady’s memoir, Becoming, smashed sales records after being published in November 2018.
No date has been scheduled yet for the release of the eagerly anticipated memoir by her husband, who wrote two books before becoming president, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. But the New York Post reports that updates from publisher Penguin Random House suggests it may land during the 2020 presidential campaign.
The Obamas have indicated that they intend to donate a “significant portion” of the proceeds from their memoirs to charity, adds The Independent.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that they have also signed a contract with streaming service Spotify to produce a series of podcasts.
Variety reports that the couple are “set to develop, produce, and lend their voices to select podcasts on a wide range of topics” in a multiyear deal between their company Higher Ground Productions and the audio streaming platform.
“We’ve always believed in the value of entertaining, thought-provoking conversation,” the former president said in a statement. “It helps us build connections with each other and open ourselves up to new ideas... Podcasts offer an extraordinary opportunity to foster productive dialogue, make people smile and make people think, and, hopefully, bring us all a little closer together.”
The Obamas have a deal with Netflix as well, “to produce original scripted, unscripted and documentary series and films”, the entertainment news site adds.
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