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Look at the fine print

Wednesday, Aug 26, 2015

* Matt Dietrich

When the Independent Map Amendment anti-gerrymandering effort got under way this spring, I expected it would run into opposition. After all, this movement seeks to take away the most coveted prize in Illinois politics — a party’s ability to rig legislative maps in favor of its members.

But I thought the opposition would come in a court challenge in 2016 by lawyers for House Speaker Michael Madigan on behalf of the Illinois Democratic Party, of which Madigan is chairman. That’s what happened the last time a citizen initiative tried to pry the map-drawing tools away from the politicians.

This time, though, the opposition is early, organized and — judging from its first target mailer — willing to make outlandish claims to advance its fear-mongering campaign.

“Minority groups have worked tirelessly over many decades to ensure our voices are heard in the Illinois General Assembly,” reads a letter sent last week by People’s Map, a political committee registered last week with the Illinois Board of Elections. “The proposal to change the redistricting process would undo our effort and struggle, and if such an effort is successful, we will not soon forget it…

“We hope that you, as a community leader, will cease activities viewed by many as an attack on the progress minorities have made in Illinois,” the letter concludes.

The letter is here.

* Tom Kasich

The wordy, eight-paragraph amendment specifically states, supporters note, that the redistricting plan “shall not dilute or diminish the ability of a racial or language minority community to elect the candidates of its choice, including when voting in concert with other persons;” and that it “shall not either intentionally or unduly discriminate against or intentionally or unduly favor any political party, political group or particular person.”

Jim Bray, a spokesman for the Independent Map Group, said that the amendment “protects and strengthens minority-voting rights and embeds Voting Rights Act protections which are not” now in the Illinois Constitution. […]

“As with any change in government the status quo likes it the way it is and they’re going to fight to keep their power,” Bray said. “We knew there would be opposition and this time around it has created a committee. We take it seriously because their arguments are incorrect and the facts are on our side, and we want to be sure that our supporters and the people who haven’t thought about this amendment yet are aware that they are not telling the truth.”

“I think maybe (Democratic Party Chairman Michael) Madigan’s hearing the number that we’re up to 200,000 signatures already and maybe if we present the State Board of Elections with 600,000 signatures, it’s going to be harder for them to throw out 90 percent of them at times as they did with some of the sampling the last time,” said Shepard.

* Mark Brown

Count me among those who think it would be a good idea to shake up the political status quo in Illinois by changing the redistricting process. The way it stands now we allow incumbent legislators to pick the constituents most likely to re-elect them, instead of letting voters pick their representatives.

Just the same, I can’t totally discount the concerns that changing the system might inadvertently undercut certain protections for minority communities built into current law, although I am certain the main people pushing the Independent Maps Amendment aren’t intentionally seeking to dilute minority voting rights, contrary to what the opposition group is alleging.

* This is a classic case of “reformers can do no wrong.” The media always assumes that reformers are the good guys and anyone who questions them are bad people.

And I’m not saying they aren’t good guys in this case. I’ve been in favor of non-partisan map-making for as long as I can remember. And, setting aside the fact that no prominent African-American organization is backing this proposal, I do have a very specific complaint about this line

(T)he redistricting plan shall respect the geographic integrity of units of local government

* The line could easily be interpreted to mean that, for instance, Chicago legislators would all be corralled within city limits, which might very well result in a form of “packing”

(P)ushing as many minority voters as possible into a few super-concentrated districts, and draining the population’s voting power from anywhere else.

The current 17th Senate District runs from around 70th St. in Chicago all the way down to the northern border of Kankakee. Such a district would most certainly not “respect the geographic integrity of units of local government.” Abolish districts like that and you wind up with fewer black-majority districts. Period.

* Or, take the 96th House District, which includes predominantly black neighborhoods in Springfield and Decatur. Forbid that sort of intrusion into “geographical integrity” and you could possibly get “cracking”

(S)plintering minority populations into small pieces across several districts, so that a big group ends up with a very little chance to impact any single election.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:40 pm:

    Why explore nuance, tradeoffs, and tough choices when you instead can have a simplistic Manichean view of things?

    How does an independent maps commission balance the various issues it will be required to consider? Is there a pecking order?

  2. - Bill White - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:40 pm:

    Detroit and Philadelphia offer example of this:

    = = (T)he redistricting plan shall respect the geographic integrity of units of local government
    * That could easily be interpreted to mean that, for instance, Chicago legislators would all be corralled within city limits, which might very well result in a form of “packing”… = =

    The Democratic (and black) members of the US house usually win with over 90% of the vote while Republicans usually win adjacent suburban districts with 55% to 65% of the vote.

    = = =

    All this said, I believe multi-member districts would be a more effective solution to the challenges of gerrymandering than “independent” mapmaking.

  3. - phocion - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:42 pm:

    Hispanics haven’t done so well under the current system. They had 16.5% of the population in 2010, compared to 14.7% African American. Yet there are far fewer Hispanic majority legislative district than black majority districts.

  4. - Bill White - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:43 pm:

    For those interested in looking at US House maps, here is a very useful link:

  5. - walker - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:52 pm:

    For this to be the concern now suggests that this effort is on the brink of success. There are Federal cases that do favor “minority” majority districts in any mapping process, but the underlying civil rights acts that underlie them are under constant partisan attacks in the courts. For folks to be sure that the rights of minority communities are fairly represented, probably requires that real remapping reform come out of the state legislature.

    Time for Dems to lead or be left out in the wind.

  6. - AC - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:57 pm:

    I’m old enough to have witnessed the death of nuance in reporting, and it applies to so many issues. Do we want minority representation, or do we want districts that more closely represent diverse groups of people? Do we want districts spread across so many media markets that only the most well funded candidates can afford to run? This issue is enormously complex, with no correct answers.

  7. - Rasselas - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 1:59 pm:

    phocion, the discrepancy is because of housing discrimination. African-Americans tend to live in more segregated communities, so it is easier to create districts with targeted (65%) concentration of like voters. Hispanics are not as segregated, so it is harder. It’s just math - if the precincts on the fringes of the core of a district are 50% or less hispanic, adding them to the district dilutes it, moving you away from the 65% target.

    An independent re-districting process can’t undo the math, so you can’t blame the current system.

  8. - Michelle Flaherty - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:02 pm:

    ReBoot should recognize “outlandish” claims. They make them every day.

  9. - Mike - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:05 pm:

    Agreed, Rasselas. This whole so-called “reform movement” is about using decades of housing discrimination as an excuse to pack minority districts. As Adlai II used to say, the proponents are trying to take the politics out of politics. And the minority voters will be the victims.

  10. - quasipoliticalfollower - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:05 pm:

    I understand the need and desire for independent mapping as it affects Illinois. But our representatives are then sent to a national body that’s highly tilted to Republicans because of the same gerrymandering issues in more conservative states. So if you’re a centrist or left-leaning person in Illinois, why would you want independent mapping here if it’s not going to happen in other states? It’s akin to giving up the already feeble arsenal you have.

  11. - Jeff Trigg - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:10 pm:

    Fine, then let’s go back to three member districts with bullet voting like the courts have prescribed in the past to help protect minority representation.

  12. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:11 pm:

    In other words, Madigan is scared by this proposal enough that he is starting his opposition earlier than last time under a different guise.

  13. - TronaldDump - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:13 pm:

    Everyone secretly loves gerrymandering as long as they are the ones drawing the maps. Fair maps just polls well with voters.

  14. - PravdaOnThePrairie - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:22 pm:

    By this logic shouldn’t there be a Latino or Latina in Madigan’s seat?

  15. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:25 pm:

    ===By this logic shouldn’t there be a Latino or Latina===

    The district is overwhelmingly Latino.

  16. - paddyrollingstone - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:31 pm:

    Its hard not to see this type of effort as a GOP plan in the guise of “good government.” I wish the whole county would ban gerrymandered districts but I don’t expect Texas or Florida, where the GOP draws the maps to follow suit. Likewise, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania have gerrymandered districts that have a vast majority of GOP congressmen despite the fact that there are more Democrats in those states. Looking back at the 2012 election, the Ds running for Congress received over a million more votes than the Republicans and a fat lot of good that did. Even f the proposal is just for the IL state legislature I am still against it as they would eventually draw the Congressional map anyway.

  17. - A guy - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:44 pm:

    They’re worried about minority representation?? Please explain why there is only one Latino Congressman in Illinois. Make it even easier and look at his district. The mass at both ends of the “horseshoe” shaped district could and would provide enough population for 2 Latino districts (Humboldt Park on the north, Little Village/Pilsen on the south) Fair mapping isn’t just due, it’s overdue. Crazy boundaries disenfranchise many, many voters.

  18. - Georg Sande - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:06 pm:

    Yes, gerrymandering is finally being vigorously challenged which is obviously a real threat to Speaker Madigan and his Democratic cohorts who wish to maintain the status quo … despite the fiscal mess they’ve made.

  19. - Juvenal - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:20 pm:

    === * The line could easily be interpreted to mean that, for instance, Chicago legislators would all be corralled within city limits, which might very well result in a form of “packing”… ===

    Rich, that’s a feature, not a bug.

    Proponents of the legislation have been very clear that is their intent.

    Mike McAuliffe will be the first casualty.

  20. - Bogey Golfer - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:26 pm:

    At what point can we no longer say only minority elected officials will reflect the interests of minority citizens? Perhaps I’m naïve……….

  21. - Ahoy! - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 3:28 pm:

    The 96th District is represented by a white person from a suburb of Decatur. It was drawn for political purposes to retain a supper majority for a white politician from Chicago.

    With computer modeling, you can help create majority-minority districts and protect geographical units of government.

    Also the bottom line is this, when general elections are more competitive, legislators will be more accountable to their constituents.

  22. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 4:03 pm:

    ==- A guy - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 2:44 pm:==

    There’s a difference between population and voting-age population.

  23. - Mama - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 4:16 pm:

    * “The line could easily be interpreted to mean that, for instance, Chicago legislators would all be corralled within city limits, which might very well result in a form of “packing”… ”
    Does this mean there would only be one Rep and one Senator for the city of Chicago?

  24. - Anonin' - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 4:23 pm:

    Guessin’ this will make a lot easier for TeamBungle to drop more rental robots into office to do the bidding of the 1%. Suprised the reformers have not figured this out.

  25. - RNUG - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 5:16 pm:

    Lets see …

    We got rid of the multi-representative districts and helped concentrate power in fewer people’s hands

    Since then, both parties have used the remap process to try to favor their position

    So maybe undoing that reform might be a good idea. Bring back the multi-representative districts but pay them all 1/3 of the current salaries … that way there is less of a budget impact while increasing the ability of multiple viewpoints being heard.

  26. - illini - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 5:30 pm:

    I am totally upset with this redistricting discussion. This system is imbalanced and unfair, yet I am talking from the perspective of someone who lives in Southern Illinois.

    Why have Shimkus, Davis and Bost been given relatively safe Districts, given the rules, and those responsible for redrawing district boundaries, for the past 10 or 20 years, not been able to make these districts more competitive?

    I have to fault primarily the ILLDEMS and their leadership - or lack of it - drew the Districts as they now stand. Case in point, many years ago, they forced David Phelps to have to chose between running for election between John Shimkus and Tim Johnson. He was drawn out of the new District and had to choose and lost the election.

    I do not know, although I do care, what goes on in Chicago and the collar counties, I do see what happens here in Southern Illinois.

    This gerrymandering is wrong and has to be changed,

  27. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 5:33 pm:

    ===* “The line could easily be interpreted to mean that, for instance, Chicago legislators would all be corralled within city limits, which might very well result in a form of “packing”… ”
    Does this mean there would only be one Rep and one Senator for the city of Chicago?===

    No because that would be flat out unconstitutional. “One man one vote” etc.

  28. - Wordslinger - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 7:02 pm:

    GCC, you might want to acquaint yourself with Justice Kennedy. He’s the swing vote, and he’s shown he ain’t got so much of an issue with that voting rights thing.

  29. - David Starrett - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 9:07 pm:

    Let’s take a breath, steep back, and try to remember what decennial reapportionment is really supposed to be about. The goal is to recognize population (and also demographic) shifts to create district boundaries which more fairly reflect the most recently measured population within states and across the nation. It was never intended to be a cynical game to eliminate viable electoral competition, although that’s what most commentators here seem to have accepted as a foundation for their cagey wisdom.

    We can continue to balkanize ourselves more and more, and we probably will, but none of us will be the better for it.

    District maps forcing us out of an echo-chamber would be an improvement.

  30. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 9:28 pm:

    ===GCC, you might want to acquaint yourself with Justice Kennedy. He’s the swing vote, and he’s shown he ain’t got so much of an issue with that voting rights thing.===

    There’s a host of cases and legal precedent basically saying that apportionment and districts have to be equal in terms of population (or as equal as can possibly be). A 1 senator for Chicago plan is so incredibly beyond the pale that Kennedy won’t be able to convince 3 other justices to grant cert even if it got that far. Especially if Roberts wants to retain any credibility for the Supreme Court.

    Speaking of which, Roberts is sufficiently legacy-focused that he would vote to toss that map out.

  31. - Illinoian - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 9:31 pm:

    With GIS it would be a straight forward process to balance population with geographic distribution. Representative? Politically acceptable ?

    My hunch is yes to the former and no to the latter. The real question is would ther be improvement? That is the interesting question for me. I suspect that population densities are striated according to wealth and race. Would a mathematical weighting system fundamentally change the political system

  32. - Dupage moderate - Wednesday, Aug 26, 15 @ 10:44 pm:

    Couldn’t Google draft up an algorithm to deal with all of these issues, and still present a fair map, in about an hour and a half?

    This is exhibit A as to Illinois’ corruption and why Madigan and 95% of the people in Springfield have to go.

  33. - Just Me - Thursday, Aug 27, 15 @ 12:59 am:

    For anyone to suggest that the current method is the best is laughable.

  34. - the old man - Friday, Aug 28, 15 @ 10:38 am:

    Illini, It is absurd to say that Bost congressional district was drawn to elect a republican. It is so lopsided democratic that it is pathetic. why did Bost win? The dems have a tendency to think they can win by putting up dullards and they try to win by voter stupidity and the voters are not stupid.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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