A gerrymander is a gerrymander — or is it?
Illinois Democrats hope so. They drew new state House and Senate maps to perpetuate their control of the General Assembly through 2032.
In a lower-profile action, they redrew state judicial districts to maintain their near-half-century control of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Both maps have been challenged in federal court — by Republicans who claim Democrats improperly tried to fatten their supermajority and by Hispanic groups who claim their population percentage entitles them to more legislative seats.
The GOP lawsuit represents a typical partisan — one party versus the other — fight. The Hispanic groups’ lawsuit is intra-party battle — one Democratic faction against another.
The court fight is somewhat different.
The Illinois Supreme Court, exercising its supervisory authority, has frozen the Democratic legislation, ordering business to proceed as in the past because of myriad problems it created.
For starters, while Democrats ordered costly changes, they appropriated no money to pay for them.
Illinois Supreme Court spokesman Chris Bonjean reports that the seven-member high court created a task force to study implementation, costs being at the top of the list.
“We have big things to think about,” said Justice Rita Garman of Danville.
She said the redistricting legislation requires “massive changes,” and “the Legislature is going to have to give us some money.”
In that respect, the Democrats could not care less. Their motives were entirely political.
Democrats acted out of fear they might lose their seat in the old Third District, where incumbent Democratic Justice Thomas Kilbride last year lost his campaign for retention.
Because Democrats feared losing their current 4-3 majority in 2022, they created a new Third District that they hope will provide a political advantage.
They also drew a new Second District they hope to win.
If Democratic dreams come true, they will expand their majority to 5-2.
But it’s not that simple, because the legislation raises questions about who can run where.
Garman, a Republican, is up for retention to her third 10-year term. She was elected in the old Fourth District but has now been moved to the new Fifth District.
While she is undecided about seeking retention, she has considered the issue.
Garman said it’s her understanding that she can run either in the new 41-county Fourth District that was just created or the old 30-county Fourth District.
But Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said “the way the law is written,” she can seek retention in the new Fourth, where she no longer resides, or the new Fifth, where she’s been moved.
But if Garman won retention in the new Fifth, that district would then have two justices, Garman and Justice David Overstreet, who was elected in 2020, while the Fourth District would have none.
Appointed Second District Justice Michael Burke of DuPage County was moved to the Third District. He’s most likely to run for a term in his own right from the Third District to which DuPage County was added.
If so, that would leave no Second District incumbent and a wide-open 2022 election for its seat.
The judicial redistricting was the first since 1964, when the five districts were created.
Cook County — the First District — has three justices, all of whom are Democrats.
That means Democrats only need to win one of the other four districts to maintain their majority.
Under the new format, District 2 outside Cook County shrinks from 13 counties to five — DeKalb, Kane, Kendall, Lake and McHenry.
District 3 falls from 21 counties to seven — Bureau, DuPage,
Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, LaSalle and Will.
District 4 will increase from 30 to 41 counties, while District 5, which includes Champaign County, increases from 37 to 48 counties.
Jim Dey, a member of The News-
Gazette staff, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-393-8251.