There are all kinds of reasons for introducing legislation that have nothing to do with actually passing it.
Illinois’ Republican legislators have a political reason for proposing legislation that would lay the groundwork for new nonpolitical state and federal legislative maps.
Their goal, obviously, is trying to embarrass majority Democrats who intend to manipulate the redistricting process this year in a way that benefits their party.
If that sounds sinister, it’s really not. Drawing political maps to benefit one party or the other is a time-honored, if distasteful, process known as gerrymandering.
It goes back to the beginnings of our republic, with Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry initiating a process in the early 1800s that was later named for him.
Gerry was trying to keep his Federalist Party in power. More than 200 years later, parties have changed, but the parties’ redistricting goals have not.
Redistricting of state and federal legislative districts follows the decennial census and is intended to ensure that legislative districts are relatively equal in population size.
In other words, the districts of Democratic state Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana and Republican state Rep. Mike Marron of Fithian must be equal in population, even if not in geography.
Populations shift over time, and that’s why redistricting is necessary.
In many states, including Illinois, the map-drawing process goes to the majority party. Here, it’s the Democrats.
They use that power to draw maps that hinder the opposition party by studying voting patterns and selecting boundaries in Illinois House and Senate and U.S. House races to ensure a permanent majority.
Republicans this week proposed creating an independent redistricting commission that would, presumably, produce a nonpartisan map.
“This act is about ensuring that those who are in charge of state government keep their promise to the people of Illinois, when it comes to supporting an independent map,” said Senate Republican leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods.
Democrats, of course, have no intention of allowing this proposal see the light of legislative day, let alone become law. Giving up a partisan advantage just isn’t done in Illinois.
Republicans know that. But they also know that gerrymandering isn’t popular with the voters and that throwing the gerrymandering yoke around the Dems’ necks is a cost-free way of scoring political points.
The proposal calls for a 16-member independent commission appointed by two members of the Illinois Supreme Court, one Democratic justice and one Republican justice. The map the commission produces would be presented to the secretary of state for approval.
The details, however, don’t matter, because this legislation isn’t going anywhere in the state House and Senate, where Republicans are a superminority.
Supermajority Democrats, who are in the midst of the map-drawing process, face a June 30 deadline. The new map will be in place for the 2022 March primaries.
When that time comes, voters will be selecting candidates running in districts drawn by and for Democrats, GOP objections and legislative proposals not withstanding.