* Tribune editorial…
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court disappointed Americans who yearn for an end to partisan gerrymandering — the drawing of legislative and congressional district lines to favor the party in power. The court admitted that these maps “are incompatible with democratic principles.” But it said it had no right to interfere.
The decision seemed to close off judicial remedies for a problem that politicians are not likely to solve — because they don’t see it as a problem. But a state court in North Carolina has given new hope that elections can be made to enhance the interests of voters rather than the self-serving priorities of the pols.
This decision has some relevance to Illinois, where Democrats in Springfield have gone to great lengths to keep themselves in power. In 2018, Democrats got 61% of the votes in U.S. House races but 72% of the seats. Often, the loaded dice mean there is no game at all. Of 39 state senators up for election, 20 had no opponent.
North Carolina had a similar map, but designed to bolster Republicans. They hold 10 of 13 congressional seats thanks to a map that a GOP lawmaker confessed was the best he could do — “because I don’t believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
North Carolina Republicans hold 77 percent of the congressional seats despite winning only about half the congressional votes cast statewide.
* There’s also this…
In fact, [North Carolina Democrats] didn’t stand a chance of picking up a fourth seat unless they could net 52.5 percent of the statewide vote, something they achieved only once since 2000, in the 2008 election.
And four seats would still leave the NC Dems in a 9-4 deficit.
* The Illinois Republicans lost two congressional seats last year that few thought they could possibly lose when the map was drawn in 2011. President Obama lost the 6th Congressional District by 8 points in 2012 and he lost the 14th by 10. Democratic congressional candidates lost the 6th and 14th by about 18 points in 2012 and then won them by 5 and 8 points, respectively, last year. That’s a huge turnaround and had way more to do with President Trump’s lack of suburban appeal (to say the least) and the poor campaigns the GOP incumbents ran than the way the maps were drawn.
Those two races last year were also relatively close. The equivalent to flipping about a half percentage point of the statewide congressional vote would’ve done the trick for the GOPs. And then the Democrats would’ve won 60.5 percent of the statewide vote for 61 percent of the seats.
* Look, there’s no doubt that the Illinois maps are gerrymandered. I wouldn’t argue otherwise and I am all for independent, non-partisan redistricting. But saying Illinois’ district maps are “similar” to North Carolina’s is just whataboutism.