New state legislative maps are a good example of how lawmakers take care of themselves and their party first.
The process of redrawing legislative boundary lines every 10 years is a raw, unflattering, bare-knuckles practice where the majority not only rules, it often brutally vanquishes the minority.
Such is the case with the new legislative district maps forwarded by the Democratic majority in the Illinois General Assembly. They’re designed not only to solidify their party’s hold in the Legislature — the House and Senate districts that include Champaign-Urbana are a good example — but to humiliate the minority Republicans.
All’s fair in love, war and redistricting.
Fifty years ago, for example, the Legislature couldn’t decide on a new map for the state’s congressional districts, so a panel of three federal judges took on the task, reviewing four plans submitted to it. They chose one submitted by a pair of wily House Republicans who, coincidentally or not, both were elected to politically favorable congressional districts within four years. One of those House Republicans was Ed Madigan, who represented Champaign-Urbana in Congress from 1973 to 1991. The other was Henry Hyde, who served even longer, for 15 terms.
The federal judges selected the Madigan-Hyde map over one submitted by the entire 24-member congressional delegation that was designed to preserve the status quo and protect all the incumbents.
There’s similar chicanery in the latest version of a new legislative map for Illinois. It throws two East Central Illinois conservatives, Reps. Adam Niemerg of Dieterich and Chris Miller of Oakland, into the same district. Conversely, a new 101st House District that includes Fisher, Mahomet, Tolono, Tuscola and Charleston-Mattoon has no incumbent lawmaker. Similar situations abound all over the state with the new map.
Meanwhile, the Democratic mapmakers made things as comfortable as possible for state Sen. Scott Bennett and state Rep. Carol Ammons, whose districts include Champaign-Urbana. Unlike the existing 2011 map, the new one doesn’t extend to Interstate 57 in west Champaign, eliminating some potentially Republican precincts.
Someday, Illinois will join the growing number of states in which an independent commission draws fair and equitable boundary lines. Until then, legislators will choose their constituents rather than voters getting a full choice of legislative candidates.