By JIM NOWLAN
Democratic mapmakers in Springfield have crafted new legislative district lines that are so laughably offensive to the Illinois Constitution that the state Supreme Court will either have to reject them outright, or confirm the court’s reputation for partisan political corruptness. You decide this one for yourselves, readers.
The state charter is crystal clear: “Legislative Districts shall be compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population. Representative Districts shall be compact, contiguous, and substantially equal in population.”
Merriam-Webster defines compactness as “closely and neatly packed together; dense.” A circle is perfectly compact. A box is compact.
Nearby, see the proposed Illinois House districts for northeastern Illinois. Many are the opposite of compact. Look how they wriggle out from Chicago’s city center, like skinny, arthritic fingers, clawing their way outward to find enough votes to provide districts for incumbent Democrats.
And think of the voters in these anti-compact districts. How in the world would they ever know which district they were in, who represented them, and of whom to contact when they might have a problem with Illinois government?!
Obviously, the Democratic mapmakers are, to use an old saw, selecting their voters, rather than letting voters select their representatives.
We wouldn’t be facing such atrocious maps if the state high court had allowed onto the ballot in 2016 a proposal to allow voters to determine if they wanted an independent commission to draw maps, without partisan gerrymandering. But the court, in an opinion of 4 Democrats in the majority and 3 Republicans in the minority, blocked this opportunity, with probably the most contrived bit of jurisprudence since the Dred Scott decision, which prompted the Civil War.
Nor can the Illinois Supreme Court hide behind earlier decisions. Indeed, this court in 1989 declared a state legislative district invalid because it offended the compactness requirement of our state charter, and forced a redrawing. The districts proposed in the map you see here are as bad as that invalid district.
Also nearby, see a map of Chicago’s neighborhoods, which are generally compact, as you would expect. I am sure that is what delegates to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention had in mind.
Now, because of requirements that districts be equal in population, valid districts can’t, of course, always be perfect squares. But, come on — the proposed, tortured district maps are the height of political arrogance. Democratic leaders obviously assume that the state high court will again play its partisan hand, as it did five years ago.
Democratic leaders in Springfield have overplayed this one badly. Mike Madigan would not have been so brazen.
Jim Nowlan is a former state House member, senior aide to three unindicted Illinois governors, and former chair of the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission.