I wasn’t going to write about redistricting for the Illinois legislature but I’m surprised that news outlets are missing this story. Although Democrats are in charge of redistricting, the proposed map for the Illinois state House of Representatives would unnecessarily limit the number of downstate Democrats and cede most of rural Illinois to Republicans.
In several areas that could support two Democratic leaning districts, the proposed map instead creates one super-Democratic district. These districts would be very easy to defend, but at the cost of keeping the downstate Democratic legislative caucus small and impotent for the next ten years.
The most obvious example is in the Quad cities, which has traditionally elected two Democratic state Representatives. Drawing two districts that are over 55% Democratic would be simple, but the most Democratic areas of Rock Island/Moline are lumped into one district instead.
The same thing happens in Decatur and Springfield. Decatur can support its own Democratic House district. A new Democratic leaning district that doesn’t include incumbent Republican Raymond Poe could have been created in Springfield as well. Instead, the most Democratic parts of both towns are drawn together, and a new Republican district would be created in southwestern Sangamon county. There would only be one oddly-shaped, heavily Democratic district where there could be two.
It looks like the same pattern was followed for Peoria and Champaign/Urbana.
Several news outlets have pointed out that some Republican legislators will be drawn together. That’s true and it will inconvenience those Republicans. But that doesn’t equate to drawing new Democratic districts.
One could argue that several of these areas went Republican in 2010. But, that was an unusually Republican year that can’t be taken as an indicator of long term trends. 2012, with Obama on the ballot, will be entirely different. Redistricting provides a prime opportunity for Democrats to pick up new seats in what will be a strong Democratic year. In central and western Illinois, the proposed map fails to seize that opportunity.
I can only guess why Democrats would propose limiting themselves in the central and western parts of the state. There has been talk of creating more districts with a larger proportion of minority voters. This map may do that. It’s also possible that party leaders would prefer to spend less time and money defending competitive downstate districts.
I don’t know the motivations, but I know that if I were a downstate representative I would vote against this map if I cared about having Democratic allies from outside the Chicago region. Downstate Republicans should be perfectly happy.