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Gerrymandering Galore!

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How's redistricting going in your state? Check out this gerrymandering, here in Illinois: http://www.ilhousedems.com/redistricting/?page_id=542

It's almost like they thought the posterchild for gerrymandering (Illinois' 4th Congressional district) was so great, they decided to not only keep it intact, but also replicate it in the suburbs. Check out the new 6th congressional district, which snakes from Lake Zurich down to Westmont (two completely different areas that have almost nothing in common), to create a new suburban democratic district in the Elgin/Schaumburg/Addison area. Under the new plan, west suburban Kane County, which only has 500,000 people, will include portions of 4 congressional districts, whereas currently, it only falls into one. For an example of how crazy these maps are drawn, if you're driving on U.S. 20 west out of Elgin, you will now be able to drive through three different congressional districts within 5 minutes.

Another suburban democratic district was created, covering inner-city Aurora and Joliet, that is only a mile wide as it snakes down to Joliet, so it avoids heavily Republican areas like Plainfield and Homer Glen.

Meanwhile, two Republicans were drawn into the same district (longtime representative Don Manzullo who was once in a very safe R district and newcomer Bobby Schilling who won a very competive district), a district drawn as a safe democratic district that includes inner-city Rock Island, Peoria, and Rockford, all heavily democratic areas, along with blue collar union towns like Sterling-Rock Falls, Freeport, and Galesburg.

Another downstate district was gerrymandered to benefit the Dems, covering inner-city Decatur, Springfield, Champaign, and Bloomington, but yet seeming to avoid Republican parts of those metros. Another crazy district was created that will extend from the WI stateline at Rockton to the IN state line near Watseka.

The way they drew it, I predict only 5 safe Republican districts, with the rest either safe Democratic or leaning Democratic. Currently, there are 11 Republican congressmen and 8 Democratic congressmen representing our state and, if you look back in time, it's actually been pretty even-keel.

I know a lot of people think Illinois is a blue state and should have more Democrats, but it is not. Chicago proper and the southern suburbs are heavily Democratic, East St. Louis is heavily Democratic, but pretty much everywhere else is either Republican or moderate. During the last election, the Republican candidate for governor won 99 of 102 counties, and only lost the race by a couple thousand votes. The state is more moderate/swing than you would think, and I think our congressional maps should be drawn as such, putting emphasis on geography and not on politics. That way, a mini-region like Rockford or Peoria will have one representative that represents that entire region, rather than split between two that could potentially come from two completely different corners of the state.

To me, districts should be drawn with geography in mind, not with politics in mind. Give a district to a common area (Rockford area, Peoria area, far northwest suburbs, near northwest suburbs, far west suburbs, near west suburbs, north side of Chicago, south side of Chicago), and let whatever happen, happen. I believe if districts were drawn this way, more moderate candidates would emerge that best represent the people in those areas. With the proposed map, many suburban communities and small downstate cities are divided into two or three different districts, where your neighbors could potentially be in a different district than you are. It makes absolutely no sense.

Updated 28 May 2011 at 3:02 PM by illinoisplanner



  1. Bear Up North's avatar
    Agreed, geographical districts make more sense. Remember what Mom did when you and a sibling were told to share a cookie? The first person divides it, the second person chooses the piece.

    Why not let the minority party in the state draw the lines? Heh heh heh.....

  2. LTrain's avatar
    check out NYS district maps for a real laugh
  3. clashorne's avatar
    If you think that the legislatures-majority vs minority-can handle this fairly just what till our state supreme court gets a hold of this. With accusations of physical violence flying back and forth during the public employee union ruling, this should be a good 12 rounder. We passed conceal-carry just in time for some real fireworks!
  4. jrblack's avatar
    Ohio's is pretty horrific. The whole debacle makes me furious.

    Irony = the winner of the Draw the Line Ohio contest? An Illinois state representative. (He won both competitions: Congressional map, state legislative map.) His map looks like the epitome of common sense when compared with the resulting redistricting maps. I haven't heard a negative word, from Dems or Repubs, about his winning maps. Oh well.
  5. ela's avatar
    I enjoyed reading your Article
    it is so true.

    Ela Ostricher
  6. The One's avatar
    I'm thinking the greatest single reason for our political division these days is Gerrymandering. Is it any wonder that our politicians aren't willing to even negotiate on basic issues. Why should they, they know they will be re-elected because they often enjoy a 2:1 majority in their districts. Make no mistake, the availability of very specific demographics and voting polls have made it easy to make it happen.
  7. B'lieve's avatar
    As a Marylander, [in best Bubba Clinton voice] Ah feel yore pain.
    Texas, PA, and Maryland all did the same thing as Illinois, just the first two benefitted Republicans instead. PA's State Supreme Court overturned that state's map as unconstitutional (hooray!), but the highest courts in Texas and Maryland turned back challenges to those state's maps and approved them as constitutional.

    Here in MD the gerrymandered map was so awful one lower appeals court judge referred to John Sarbanes' district as "a broken-winged pterodactyl" according to the Baltimore Sun--Sarbanes had reportedly told the governor's redistricting commission he wanted to represent Annapolis and voila! it was done. We can petition laws to referendum here (except taxes), and a petition to do exactly that met the threshold to get on the 2012 ballot--and nothing else happened. No coverage on TV besides a two-minute blurb on one of Baltimore's four evening local newscasts, no newspaper coverage except a few brief inside-page blurbs, and short snippets buried in larger articles on the other referenda (casinos, same-sex marriage, DREAM Act). The groups driving the petition did nothing really to follow-up and publicize why they were fighting this travesty and what the consequences of keeping it would be. Worst of all, the ballot itself only said that the new congressional district boundaries were up for voter approval, with no explanation why, and no pictures of the map--that at least was almost certainly deliberately ordered by the state election commission's bosses in the General Assembly and governor's mansion. Predictably, the map was approved by the voters, who mostly had no idea what was going on or why this was up for a vote (based on newspaper reporters' questioning of voters as they left the polls.)

    The only way to really stop this is to either force a court case (with plaintiffs whose standing-to-sue/claims of harm are rock-solid) and drive it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, or use some serious legislative sleight-of-hand to slip a state constitutional amendment through a state's amendment process w/o most of the legislature or governor knowing until it's already out of their hands and on the next scheduled ballot--too many benefit too much to expect anything to pass openly. Either way, supporters would have to follow through, with a massive campaign to educate the public on the broad disenfranchisement and destruction of accountability gerrymandering causes and get people fired up. A high-profile success in one state would boost the odds of success in others, but I hold out little hope in the near-term.
  8. D Green's avatar
    To be honest, gerrymandering just looks like it's a huge sign of political weakness. If the political position is strong enough to stand on it's own merit by the votes of the people, it doesn't need Gerrymandering.

    Second, it shows a blatant mistrust in a voters ability to do the right thing. What, are they afraid of being voted out if they stop Gerrymandering?
    Updated 22 Nov 2013 at 2:51 PM by D Green