After legislative Democrats put the finishing touches on new gerrymandered state House and Senate district maps earlier this week, Republicans screamed bloody murder.
Not, of course, that it did them any good. Barring federal court intervention, the redistricting deed is done. As a consequence, so are GOP legislators for the next 10 years.
That’s the conclusion of analyst Frank Calabrese, who insists the new legislative maps put the supermajority Democrats in a “very strong” position to maintain control of the General Assembly.
How strong is “very strong”?
“Even in a Republican year, no matter what happens — earthquakes, hurricanes, fires — the Democrats will have control of the House and Senate,” Calabrese said.
Reminded that he had neglected to mention a plague of locusts, Calabrese said that, too, would be insufficient to change the partisan dynamics in Springfield through 2032.
Legislative maps are redrawn every 10 years in Illinois following a census to account for shifts or increases in populations.
They are supposed to be of equal size, and it was Democrats’ failure to meet that standard that prompted them to redraw previously gerrymandered maps they passed and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, contrary to his campaign promises, signed into law a couple months ago.
Republicans and Hispanics have filed lawsuits in federal court to challenge the maps. Both complained the first round was unlawful because Democrats relied on population estimates to come up with the numerically flawed maps.
The redrawn maps approved Tuesday rely on newly released census numbers that have all the House and Senate districts fitting within population guidelines.
Redistricting has always been a political process, with the map-drawing party creating legislative boundary lines to give itself a big advantage.
In that sense, the maps approved Tuesday are little different than the maps approved earlier this year.
Calabrese estimated that House Democrats, who hold a 73-45 majority, will pick up at least five seats in the 2022 election.
The new House maps have the added advantage of further weakening a disconsolate GOP by eliminating experienced Republicans.
That’s because Democrats have drawn 12 incumbent GOP legislators into six new districts, requiring them to run against each other or step aside.
On the Senate side, he suggested Democrats may lose a seat or two, putting a slight dent in their current 41-18 margin. Calabrese said Democrats decided to redraw Senate districts in a way that ensures virtually all of them will be overwhelmingly Republican or Democratic, impervious to a general election challenge.
Calabrese said he and others are surprised Democrats went after the GOP with such zeal.
He even suggested a shocking possibility — that the GOP’s bête noire, former Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, would have gone easier on the Republicans than current Speaker Chris Welch.
No one, of course, should mistake that suggestion as a sign that Madigan is either kinder or gentler than Welch. It’s just that he was always careful about having too many Democratic mouths to feed in his caucus.
Calabrese said other Democrats share the same concern.
“Interestingly, there are some Democrats who are uncomfortable with (the idea of having) 80 members,” he said.
With Republicans representing political opposition in name only, it’s likely Democrats will have more turmoil in their own ranks.
Calabrese said legislative Democrats, who have already moved to the left politically, will move even faster in that direction.
“More Democrats means more liberal legislation. (An 80-member majority) will empower liberals and make some headaches for the moderates,” he said.
That, of course, remains to be seen. But judging from the GOP caterwauling, it anticipates what Calabrese is predicting.