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Remap reality check

Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011

* A lot of folks just don’t want to hear it, but House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie made some good points on this video about why legislative district maps aren’t perfectly rectangular in Illinois. Have a look

* The federal and state Voting Rights Acts, geographical and political boundaries, etc. all make it difficult to draw square maps. For example, take a look at the Mexican-American Legal and Defense Fund’s proposed House district maps for the South Side which I told subscribers about in much detail this morning…

As subscribers know, there was some heavy-duty personalized/politicized gerrymandering involved in at least one of those above districts. The Illinois Supreme Court has allowed maps drawn with incumbent homes in mind, however. And various federal and state laws/rulings require squiggly lines to achieve racial/ethnic representation. Congressman Gutierrez’s 20-year-old map has never been struck down, for instance, despite running all over the place…

* Some folks don’t like this, particularly white people who say we shouldn’t have maps based on race. The problem with that is, the people in power tend to be white, and they tend to draw maps which favor their own tribes. It’s no accident that the 1981 legislative map had to be partially redrawn via court order because white Democrats refused to draw districts to help elect Latinos beyond one “safe” machine candidate (Joe Berrios).

So, that’s the way it is, your reading of the Constitution’s “compact and contiguous” language notwithstanding. Courts interpret the Constitution, and they’ve done so in a way that allows these things. Even the crazy, purely political map drawn for Lane Evans has held up for ten years…

The Republicans, by the way, drew Gutierrez’s map and a lot more Latino legislative districts in concert with MALDEF. Why? Because they didn’t want to risk their map being tossed out by a court. It’s the way it goes.

* There are those who say we should have districts which look like Iowa’s, nicely squared boundaries. But racial requirements and our own state’s rather odd shape and population patters both work against that. That’s not to say that mapmakers shouldn’t try to make legislative districts a bit less bizarre, but they’ll usually do whatever they believe they can get away with.

* Remap roundup…

* Greg Hinz: Latinos ask for more — lots more — in state remap

* Mark Brown: Latino groups offer legislative map

* Latinos want to double their numbers in Illinois legislature

* Will Co. officials keeping eye on Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s district

* Minority groups: Districts shouldn’t break up communities

* House redistricting efforts wrap up

* No guarantees of hearings on state maps

* Local officials argue for more unified state legislative boundaries

* Residents Say Communities Hurt by Split in Political Representation

* Sen. Noland checks in about redistricting

* Senator Sandack pessimistic about future of district maps

* VIDEO: Rep Barbara Flynn Currie on redistricting

* VIDEO: Rep Chapin Rose on redistricting

[Video clip taken from an IL Statehouse News interview.]

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:29 pm:

    I believe that majority/minority districts are a farce because they blacks (or hispanics or whites) cannot compete against each other. This is a soft form racism, but it is racism nonetheless. Do we believe a hispanic, who may live 50 miles from his representative, is better served by a hispanic representative simply because he is hispanic, or would that individual be better served by the black representative next store?

    Fair warning, you can substitute any demographic in either place in the above statement.

  2. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:31 pm:

    ===Do we believe a hispanic, who may live 50 miles from his representative====

    Where would that be? Downstate, yeah, but there are no Latino districts there.

  3. - shore - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:32 pm:

    I don’t get why the lane evans district has to be like that for federal race reasons.

  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:33 pm:

    shore, it doesn’t. It was pure politics.

  5. - Ahoy - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:38 pm:

    One can argue that Congressman Gutierrez’s map is gerrymandered to ensure minority representation. There is no way to argue that the 17th District map is anything but a politically drawn district trying to speak out a Democratic Congressman in downstate (which of course didn’t work this last election).

    I’m opposed to over gerrymandering. Call me a rose tented optimist, but I think you can help minority representation without going over the top like in Gutierrez’s district. I wonder if trying to shove all the minorities into their own districts really helps them have representation or just makes them feel like they have representation while diluting their voice. I’m not sure and would like to hear other’s thoughts. Again, I might be looking at it through rose tented lenses.

  6. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:39 pm:

    Okay, let’s say 25, which is close to some of the rumors I am hearing, where districts snake from the city to DuPage County. I contend that someone living in Elmhurst or Oakbrook Terrace has very little in common with someone from the heart of the city.

    And I am never even going to try to understand whose interests are being served IL CD-17 other than incumbent politicians.

  7. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:43 pm:

    Cincinnatus, that’s not true, either, unless you think that somone in Rosemont can’t represent somebody in DuPage.

  8. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:56 pm:

    - I contend that someone living in Elmhurst or Oakbrook Terrace has very little in common with someone from the heart of the city. -

    Huh? What exactly goes on over there that I’m not aware of? I’m apparently going to have to start looking at some of my coworkers differently.

  9. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 1:58 pm:

    I do say that other political boundaries, some of which go back to before Illinois was a state, should be respected when districting at all levels of government. I also believe that the district should be as geographically compact as possible to reinforce local representation.

    I do not believe in the premise that anyone is better served simply because a district is gerrymandered to try to overcome some perceived prejudice, which may in fact exacerbate any prejudice that may be present. I believe it is the worse form of racism to say that any demographic group must be represented by a person of that group, or that that representation is somehow superior. I do not believe that a representative be relieved of the need to compete in the marketplace of ideas because of his race, creed or color.

  10. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 2:10 pm:

    I don’t disagree with your premise Cinci, but you realize you’re calling for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, or at least Section 5. Good luck with that. The Courts have been fairly consistent in upholding gerrymandering to preserve minority representation, so you’re going to need to change some laws to get your way.

    I personally believe if we had an Iowa style computer drawn map, programmed for compact/contiguous districts that respect communities (broadly defined), we’d elect more Democrats in Illinois. So I’m good with that plan. It’s too bad that’s not going to happen this year.

    There’s always 2020 I suppose.

  11. - irv & ashland - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 2:33 pm:

    I concede some of what you say. But there’s certainly another argument, which is that there’s a difference between “safe minority seats” and seats which minorities can win, and part of that lies in what kind of candidates can win in each. If instead of 65%+ districts, we had more 55%+ districts, I think you’d still see a lot, perhaps the same, minority representation, but they would be voicing different concerns, and so would the white who won in many other districts that were now, say, 35% minority rather than 12% minority.

    On the other hand, Lani Guinier was right. Some sort of proportional representation probably allows for better representation of everyone - including the range of opinion among minorities and also smaller opinion groups in the white population,

  12. - Anon - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 2:35 pm:

    She makes some great points that are largely ignored anytime this topic is brought up. But I believe she could argue just about any which way, shes an extremely bright person. Personally, I believe gerrymandering needs to go, which will require approval of a map that will have definitive court challenges. Dont think we will see that for a long time yet and frankly I wouldnt push it yet myself.

  13. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 2:39 pm:


    I’d be okay with more Democrats, if we could get what I’d call sensible districting. So be it. This state is more liberal than the nation, and as such, I would expect more liberal representation in the various legislatures.

    I actually believe that over time, we’d end up with more highly competitive districts as representatives become more beholden to serving their constituent neighbors instead of being handed “safe” districts because of gerrymandering to achieve pre-determined results. Furthermore, I think we may be surprised at the strength of Republicans, similar to the surprises seen in 2010 at the Federal level.

    Bring on the competition!

  14. - Jim - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 2:58 pm:

    It’s no surprise Illinois government is so corrupt when the process by which legislators are elected is so corrupt. That includes a highly politicized Illinois Supreme Court, which votes on party lines when redistricting cases come before them.

  15. - Conservative Republican - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 3:03 pm:

    @ Cincinnatus: your Chicago-ese is showing- the phrase is “next door” not “next store”

  16. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 3:19 pm:

    –I contend that someone living in Elmhurst or Oakbrook Terrace has very little in common with someone from the heart of the city.–

    I’m not down with the lingo, but are we approaching the definition of being a troll?

    Oakbrook Terrace (if you’ve been down that stretch of Roosevelt Road) isn’t exactly Highland Park. But nice.

    Elmhurst (if you’ve been down that stretch of North Avenue) isn’t exactly Kenilworth. But nice.

    And the “heart of the city,” (whatever that is: Loop, Gold Coast, Streeterville, River North, etc.,) isn’t exactly Ford Heights. But nice.

  17. - train111 - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 3:33 pm:

    I’m not a subscriber, but the one obvious goody in that Hispanic district D map is the notch southeast of Midway Airport (east of Cicero and south of 63rd that nicely cuts MJM out of a Hispanic district and puts him in a more traditional machine (white ethnic) district–despite the fact that the census tracts in that notch do indeed have a Hispanic majority.

    Just my guess


  18. - Louis Howe - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 3:40 pm:

    I agree with Cincinnatus…as for the Voting Rights Act impact…America has changed a lot in fifty years, it’s time to clarify the special privileges contained within the Voting Rights Act.

  19. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 3:56 pm:

    - Conservative Republican - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 3:03 pm:

    “@ Cincinnatus: your Chicago-ese is showing- the phrase is “next door” not ‘next store’”

    What is showing is the auto-correct feature I am evaluating in Mac OS 10.7, and my lack of proof-reading. Even so, I do say dese, dems and dos a lot.

  20. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 4:29 pm:

    I guess the real question Cincinnatus and others are askng is how long do we draw districts to keep certain racial groups under one roof, or allowing them to elect one representative from one area, even with squiggly lines?

    The country is improving on this issue, but I don’t think we are quite there yet.

  21. - Obamarama - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 4:31 pm:

    ===I’m not down with the lingo, but are we approaching the definition of being a troll?===

    That is like saying that we are approaching the definition of a budget shortfall.

  22. - Amused - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 4:38 pm:

    –So, that’s the way it is, your reading of the Constitution’s “compact and contiguous” language notwithstanding.–

    I believe the compact and contiguous language only applies to legislative districts, not congressional ones. Hence the crazy 17th.

  23. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 5:21 pm:

    Amused is correct.

    “The federal constitution and statutes impose requirements that apply to all states: equal population districts, single-member congressional districts, and some provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Additional provisions of the Voting Rights Act apply to only certain jurisdictions.

    States may impose additional requirements beyond the federal requirements, such as drawing districts that respect existing political boundaries, physical boundaries, or communities of interest; districts that are compact; and districts that are politically fair. These criteria vary among the states.”

    I forgot where I got this information, but it is correct.

  24. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 5:25 pm:

    when there is a new map - cant you live anywhere and then move into the State Rep or Senate district?

  25. - Union - Tuesday, Apr 26, 11 @ 6:26 pm:

    Drawing minority majority districts doesn’t mean a candidate will win who is in the majority ethnic group of the district. Take for example Sheriff Tom Dart. for 10 years he represented the 28th District in Chicago which was 70% African-American and 30% Caucasian. He won 5 elections in a row.

    Looking and Obama, Emanual and Dart, I think we are in a new era in which the person matters more than his or her own race.

    A Hispanic can win in an all white, or black district, so can a black candidate win in an all white or hispanic district. We want good representatives, not colors.

    My generation could not vote when Herald Washington ran for Mayor and all the talk was color. This past Mayoral election was about the person. The news and some candidates talked color, but the voters voted person. Look at the results precinct by precinct.

    Draw maps that first include as many whole counties as possible, then when the county is too big, as many whole townships or cities and see what kind of a map we get.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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