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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Redistricting Illinois

One only needs to take a look at the outlines of the current Congressional districts in Illinois to see gerrymandering run wild. This kind of gerrymandering is usually caused by one party that has control of both the state legislature and the governship using their advantage to stack the deck against the other party. In the case of Illinois, both parties collaborated in the gerrymandering since neither party had total control in 2000. This resulted in really weird shaped districts like district 17. It is also a prime example of how gerrymandering can backfire because the whole purprose of district 17 was to give the Democrats control of the district and protect control of neighboring Republican districts. The problem is that redistricting only happens every ten years and a lot can happen in that time like Republicans winning this "Democrat" district in 2010. The following map of the current districts shows what happens when politicians turn into map makers:

Illinois Congressional district map of 2000

No doubt Illinois will again see gerrymandering run wild only this time just for the benefit of the Democrat Party since it controls both houses of the state legislature and the governorship. Actually there is no need for the Democrats to do this because just drawing nice neat districts will cause the Republicans to lose House seats. That last exercise in gerrymandering is what gave the Republicans their current 11 seats compared to only 8 for the Democrats. There is no way the Republicans in a blue state like Illinois should control that many districts and it is only because of gerrymandering that backfired that they do. Illinois has lost a congressional district because of the 2010 Census and all of these districts must be redrawn as a result. The Republicans are going to lose at least two seats and maybe three and at least two Republicans will have to run against each other no matter how much gerrymandering takes place.

That being the case how about a really strange idea? Why not let a geographical area that votes Democrat have a Democrat congressman and an area that votes Republican have a Republican one? That way everyone will get what they are voting for to the maximum extent possible instead of trying to stack the deck in favor of an outcome that will probably change in the next ten years anyway. We have prepared a map that does that as a guide to how playing the game fairly lets the chips fall where they may. Here is our suggestion:

Map of suggested Illinois 2010 redistricting

The white dots show the location of the homes of the current congress people from Illinois. As you can see there are four white dots in the area of the purple, brown and dark blue districts. All four are Republican and there is no way they can be separated without more ridiculous gerrymandering. Why should a Democrat controlled state be so kind as to preserve four Republican congressmen? One Republican congressman is history no matter what happens. Two other Republican Congressmen barely got elected in districts 8 and 10 (the two in the upper right hand corner). One of them is in a district that was carried by Obama by 12 points so he is likely history in any case. As to whether Congressman Dold can survive no matter how his 10th district is drawn is questionable but there is no way to insure his defeat without endangering Congresswoman Schakowsky in district 9.

Our plan makes no attempt to draw the 6 districts for Chicago (the bright blue area) since it will come down to what the six Democrat congress people want to do there and it has no partisan political implications in any case. One could gerrymander things so that Congressman Costello (Dem) and Congressman Shimkus (Rep) have to run against each other at the bottom of the state since they live failrly close together but no matter how you drawn the lines, the aqua area will elect a Democrat and the orange area will elect a Republican so why bother? The 2010 Census gave Illinois a population of 12,864,380 and 18 congressional seats so ideally each district should have a population of 714,687.77. Our districts contain whole counties in southern Illinois and whole townships in Northern Illinois. Here is how our districts work out by population:

Incumbents 2010 Population Deviation % Deviation
New Congressional Districts Figures
Shimkus (R)
718,581 +3,893 +0.5471%
Schock (R) - Schilling (R)
714,010 -678 -0.0949%
Manzullo (R)
713,052 -1,636 -0.2289%
Johnson (R)
715,793 +1,105 +0.1546%
Hultgren (R)
712,455 -2,233 -0.3124%
Biggert (R)
710,287 -4,401 -0.6158%
Costello (D)
717,910 +3,222 +0.5408%
Kinzinger (R)
709,271 -5,417 -0.7580%
Dold (R)
720,446 +5,758 +0.8057%
Walsh (R)
715,176 +488 +0.0683%
Roskam (R)
712,098 -2,590 -0.3624%
Lipinski (D)
707,888 -6,800 -0.9515%
Total/Average 8,566,967 +/-3,185 +/-0.4534%