After victory in court, Democrats are pretty much guaranteed big wins in Illinois' 2012 state and federal legislative races.
Illinois Republicans now are zero for two in their legal efforts to set aside gerrymandered legislative maps for next year's state and federal elections.
A three-judge federal panel ruled late last week that Republicans seeking to challenge the Democrat-drawn map had failed in their effort to prove the map intentionally limited electoral opportunities for Hispanic voters. The court freely conceded the map was drafted to minimize the chances of GOP candidates winning but said that gerrymandering legislative districts is not illegal.
The judges — Joan Lefkow, Robert Miller and John Tinder — characterized the Democratic map as "a blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats."
The judges' ruling is another triumph for the "to-the-victor-go-the-spoils" approach to politics. The federal courts have intervened over the years in truly outrageous cases of gerrymandered districts, but they have generally preferred to let the political process handle the map-drawing.
That means that since Democrats control the governor's office and the state Legislature they are entitled to draw the congressional map as they wish. In recent weeks, federal judges also have rejected a GOP challenge to Democrat-drawn state House and Senate maps that are as gerrymandered as the congressional map.
Republicans were probably more desperate than confident when they filed the legal challenge. Predicting a legal challenge would be hopeless, local Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson declined to participate in the litigation, preferring to spend his time campaigning in the newly drawn 13th Congressional District that runs all the way from Urbana to the Missouri border near St. Louis.
It is, of course, unfortunate that legislators of either party gerrymander political maps when they have the opportunity. The result is that the elections are essentially rigged — because only one party's candidate has a legitimate chance to win most races
Efforts were made to reform the drawing of maps in Illinois like they do in Iowa, but the political insiders had other ideas.
The good news in this decision — if there is any — is that the state and federal legislative maps appear to be set, and candidates know where they stand.