U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take up Wisconsin gerrymandering case
Illinois’ election districts heavily dilute suburban vote.
For the first time in more than a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of partisan gerrymandering, a move that has the potential to straighten Illinois’ crooked district lines.
The Supreme Court will hear an appeal over electoral districts in Wisconsin. A lower court had ruled that the state’s district map, drawn by Republicans, was unconstitutional due to partisan gerrymandering in favor of the GOP.
Gerrymandering, or drawing voting districts lines to strengthen one political party, occurs in varying degrees all across the United States. In Illinois, where House Speaker Michael Madigan has drawn the voting lines 3 out of the last 4 times, gerrymandering is business as usual.
Madigan’s district lines have long ensured overwhelming Democratic control of the General Assembly. In July 2016, a redistricting reform led by the nonpartisan Independent Maps coalition sought to loosen that control and put the issue to a statewide vote. However, a Cook County Circuit Court judge struck down the effort after a longtime Madigan ally filed a lawsuit to block voters from considering the measure.
As currently drawn, the electoral district lines snake through neighborhoods and down streets, particularly around Chicago. Suburban districts that might vote Republican are stretched out to include parts of the city that are solidly Democratic, effectively diluting the red vote.
For example, District 31’s west side starts near the intersection of highways I-55 and I-294, slicing through LaGrange Highlands. It then scoops up most of Countryside, Palos Hills – but avoids Hickory Hills – and wriggles its way through Oak Lawn and Burbank before touching I-94 and settling in the south side of Chicago.
If that was confusing to follow, the Illinois State Board of Elections provides a map and a detailed list of the approximately 185 steps needed to outline District 31.
Many of the directions reveal the painstaking work that went into creating the districts.
One section reads, “[T]hence east along W. 72nd St (extended) to the Indiana Harbor Belt rail line, thence south for approximately 620 feet, thence east for approximately 20 feet, thence north for approximately 620 feet to W. 72nd St (extended).”
The fight for transparency and fairness in the election process was taken up by CHANGE Illinois in January 2017. The executive director, Ra Joy, has a hopeful outlook, as seen in a column published by the Northwest Herald,
“If the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series,” Joy wrote, “redistricting reform can and will happen in Illinois.”