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*** UPDATED x1 *** A good idea, just don’t over-promise

Monday, Jun 27, 2016

* I wrote a blog post the other day which I thought at the time could be re-worked into a decent newspaper column. Here it is

Illinoisans are undeniably furious about the way their government has been running (or, more accurately, not running). They’re looking for solutions, and some are grasping at anything within reach.

A downstate newspaper editorial the other day attempted to pin the blame for just about all of our state’s fiscal and economic problems on the way politicians in this state draw legislative district maps.

That’s just silly.

Reforming the process by taking away map-drawing duties from politicians and handing it to a nonpartisan commission is definitely a good idea. But, don’t kid yourself that reforming this one process, where politicians choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians, will suddenly make Illinois great again, or whatever.

First of all, it may not work like some think it will. When editorial writers and pundits talk about redistricting reform, they usually focus on the man who draws many of the legislative district maps: Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, one of the most disliked politicians in all of Illinois, and the man who is blamed by many for much (or even all) of our problems. Take that power away from him and you’ll do away with Madigan, the theory goes.

OK, but take a look at the Illinois Election Data website, which has the 2014 gubernatorial election results by Illinois House district. Those districts were drawn, of course, by Speaker Madigan.

Bruce Rauner won 50.8 percent of the popular vote in 2014. Yet, by my count, Rauner also won 69 of Illinois’ 118 House districts that same year, or 58.5 percent.

In other words, the Republican candidate for governor won 22 more House districts than the House Republicans.

That’s why Gov. Rauner thinks he has a real shot at picking up some House seats this year. His operation is focusing like a laser on the districts he won.

Why didn’t Republican House candidates do as well as Rauner?

Let’s step back a couple of years. The House Democrats picked up seats in 2012 after they drew the new map in 2011, but besides creating districts that certainly favored their candidates, the wins were also due to ‘12 being a hugely favorable (to them) presidential election year. Democrats do much better here in presidential years.

And once people are elected, it’s difficult to knock them out. By the time the national GOP wave swept through two years later, in 2014, it ran smack dab into Democratic incumbents who’d been working their new districts hard for two years. That’s always something to remember about Madigan. In exchange for his monetary and staff support, he demands rigorous door-to-door work by his candidates. Once they’re in, they tend to stay in.

This year, the presidential election means the national trend will likely be the Democrats’ friend yet again. If Rauner doesn’t net some gains, he’ll likely blame Madigan’s map, but that won’t be totally true.

And just because one party draws the map doesn’t mean it has a lock on it. For instance, the Republicans currently control three U.S. House districts that were actually drawn to favor Democrats.

Also, go back to 1991, the last time the Republicans drew the legislative district map. Madigan’s Democrats managed to hold on to control in the very next election, when Bill Clinton and Carol Moseley Braun swept the state. But Madigan’s Democrats lost the majority two years later in a huge national GOP landslide. Madigan learned some hard lessons in 1994. He regained the majority in 1996, when President Clinton ran again, and managed to hold onto it until he could draw his own map in 2001.

Yet the Senate Republicans held their majority throughout that very same 10-year period.

The lesson here is that getting rid of Madigan, or even clipping his wings, ain’t going to be as easy as it looks.

Again, I think that a nonpartisan, independent remap process would be a good thing no matter the Madigan-related outcome. But so would California’s open primary system, where the top two vote-getters battle it out in November even if they’re from the same party. I’d love to see that brought to Illinois.

There are lots of things we can do to reform the process. But I highly doubt that this one reform will solve all our problems. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise because they’re living in an overly simplistic cartoon world. I prefer the real world.

* Meanwhile…

Rich —

With oral arguments a few days away, here’s the last brief to be filed by Independent Maps coalition in opposition to the lawsuit that seeks to block the redistricting reform amendment from the ballot. The attached reply memorandum from Independent Maps was filed Friday afternoon.

Oral arguments are scheduled for 2 p.m. June 30 before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen.

The reply memorandum is here.

*** UPDATE ***  The plaintiffs also filed a motion on Friday. Click here to read it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

12 Comments
  1. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 9:18 am:

    Some valid observations. The House Republicans never had an effective campaign committee and frequently lost races to the Democrats where the Senate Republicans managed to do so much better.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 9:24 am:

    ===But Madigan’s Democrats lost the majority two years later in a huge national GOP landslide. Madigan learned some hard lessons in 1994. He regained the majority in 1996, when President Clinton ran again, and managed to hold onto it until he could draw his own map in 2001.===

    It’s the micro understanding and diversity of members reflecting the challenges of the districts’ maps that made Madigan beat Daniels 4 of 5 times… that and understanding the South Suburbs and evolving and recruiting candidates better suited than Daniels had seated to defend those seats.

    This is why I absolutely love these races. Nothing better for me in the street to street understanding of the politics.

    To the Maps,

    It’s all of these issues, Rich’s exceptional Blog Post and Column frame realities. Not the ridiculous hyperbole any side has, for or against.

    I woulda loved to have seen what I feel is the best spiky ion for all parties (no pun intended) involved.

    Absolute and complete fair map, broken into 59 districts, taking into consideration the rational understanding of comprising an opportunity for a reflective map of Illinois while sending 1 member from each of the 59 to the Illinois Senate, and three, but no more than 2 from one party, to the Illinois House, running at-large in the 59 districts.

    That I would work for, tirelessly.


  3. - illinois manufacturer - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 9:27 am:

    California is independent and is still overwlemingly…democratic. I would like to see this in places like Wisconsin.Nationally this helps dems more and I doubt it changes much here.


  4. - The Captain - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 9:34 am:

    You cannot win if you do not play.

    111th House
    2014 Governor: Rauner +16.52
    2014 House Republicans: NO CANDIDATE

    118th House
    2014 Governor: Rauner +30.01
    2014 House Republicans: NO CANDIDATE

    117th House
    2014 Governor: Rauner +32.09
    2014 House Republicans: NO CANDIDATE

    116th House
    2014 Governor: Rauner +32.13
    2014 House Republicans: NO CANDIDATE
    2016 House Republicans: NO CANDIDATE


  5. - train111 - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 9:36 am:

    In all honestly a simple solution such as ‘map reform” is exactly what most voters want to hear.

    That’s why we have two cartoon caricatures running for president hurtling sophomoric insults at each other. We the voters do not want complicated discussions of policy and that it will take years, money, and a lot of effort to fix things–we want simple no cost one word answers that fix it all.


  6. - vote in the district - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 10:01 am:

    You do not need to remap. Make the elected house and senate vote out of their districts.In front of their voters. They do not need to go to Springfield.This could also save tax payer money.


  7. - snap - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 10:37 am:

    Giving the Auditor General news duties is an interesting argument. The Remap reply seems to say it’s not a big deal to ask the Auditor General pick the people who will be picking the people who draw the map and to handle all of the applications.


  8. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 11:13 am:

    Great column, as usual.

    The map is a factor, as demonstrated in part by the change in our Congressional delegation after the remap, but it is not a wonder drug for Illinois.


  9. - Liberty - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 11:15 am:

    ==In other words, the Republican candidate for governor won 22 more House districts than the House Republicans.==

    Now that people know his tactics, does anyone think he can repeat this?


  10. - David Starrett - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 1:13 pm:

    Your links take me to a Google login page for James Stephens.


  11. - Rock Island Rocky - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 1:39 pm:

    I believe the jungle primary system would lead to more result driven legislators as even safe districts would become competitive. Great idea.

    2016 like 2014 will be an election like no other. Rauner will erase and surpass the Dems longstanding spending advantage. Once you see attack ads against Dem house members and senators on Broadcast TV in the Chicago media market kiss those Dem super majorities good-bye. The next two years are going to be very painful as both sides dig in for a political war of attrition.


  12. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 27, 16 @ 2:52 pm:

    It is time that Rauner admits the obvious. People in many areas of the state were not voting for him, but against Quinn. Do not believe me then just poll those same areas today, and see if Rauner is above water. My guess is many of the Republican’s in those districts he touts will actually attempt to distant themselves from Rauner each day it gets closer to election day.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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