Editorial | Selection, not election

Editorial | Selection, not election

Wouldn't it be great to have real choices in state legislative elections?

Today is Election Day, not only a time to choose our elected officials but also a national celebration of the democratic process.

All of the political nastiness and duplicity aside, free people are making free choices.

But in Illinois, the process is not quite what it should be — at least with respect to legislative elections.

Thanks to gerrymandering — the manipulation of legislative district boundary lines to give one party or the other a significant advantage — House and Senate elections throughout the state remain a farce.

Rather than have at least two candidates to choose from, many voters — perhaps half statewide — have no choice at all.

As noted in a Sunday column by Austin Berg, there are 118 House seats up for election today. Of those 118 seats, 54 candidates are running unopposed. Of those 54 contests with only one candidate, 12 seats are held by Republicans and 42 are held by Democrats, including state Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana.

So are those candidates really running for election? Or are they just names in a contest that was settled back in 2011, when the maps were drawn?

There are 39 Senate seats up for election, 20 of which feature just one candidate. Six of those unopposed candidates are Republicans, including state Sen. Chapin Rose of Mahomet. The other 14 are Democrats.

There are, to one degree or another, similar non-elections being held for legislative seats across the country.

Just like in those states, Illinois law allows the majority party to draw legislative-district boundary lines to benefit the majority party. So Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan draws the lines in a way that assures him of majority control for a decade at a time.

In other states, Republican and Democrat power brokers like Madigan do the same thing.

It's not that way everywhere. A number of states in recent years have recognized the inherent flaw of allowing legislators to draw their own district boundary lines and transferred that power to a bipartisan commission whose aim is to draw as many competitive districts as it can.

In Illinois, a reform effort has failed miserably, thanks to the adamant opposition of powerful politicians who care only about their own self-interest.

Nonetheless, the battle for redistricting reform continues. Voters will hear more about it in the future. Today's phony legislative elections should serve as a useful reminder why it's necessary to have real ones in Illinois and elsewhere going forward.

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