July 15, 2006

Which of these things are not like the others

Illinois Congressional Districts as they stood in 1951

In 1961...

... and in 2002 all hell breaks loose.
The districts bust out of county boundaries and start leaking and snaking all over.

Which leads to....

Thanks to commenter "Nicodemus" for sending along the historical maps.


At 7/15/2006 10:19 PM, Blogger Rob Mellon said...

Unfortunately the Supreme Court ruled against disproportionate districts. For example, having one Congressional district with 700,000 residents and one with 80,000. There was a movement to make all districts within a state to be similar in size (population). The Court ruled in this manner based on the principal of one person, one vote. This opened the door for ridiculously shaped districts in an effort to incorporate rural areas into the system while at the same time making the districts more equal. The 17th is a good example of this. The leadership of both parties has used this as an opportunity to protect incumbents. In California for example - all of their districts were reorganized to protect the incumbent - making previously neutral districts more partisan. Check the Congressional election results for the largest state in the Union - complete with over 50 Congressional districts. On second thought don't check this out unless you want to be seriously discouraged. The only way to stop this is for the Supreme Court to stop state legislatures from gerrymandering districts. For those that cry about activist courts, this is action the Court has undertaken in the past – they have been the entity that interprets the law on these matters. I am tired of incumbents enjoying such an advantage – I support more challenges in the primaries, at all levels. Unfortunately on this point – we live in a very partisan time in American history so primary challengers are viewed as being traitors to the cause.

At 7/16/2006 10:45 AM, Blogger nicodemus said...

If the Illinois legislature wanted to, we could have districts that are equal in population and compact and contiguous. We need to do like the state of Iowa and make it legally binding that counties will be left intact as much as possible. (With the exception of Cook County and a maybe the collar counties).

No county that is south of 1-80 and West of 39 should be divided up. The only reason that it has is incumbent protection. According to someone I know on the Hill, Hastert and old Bill Lipinski are the ones that gave us this ridiculous map.

In an ideal scenario, Costello and Shimkus should be thrown in the ring with each other. The same goes for Johnson and Weller. The Quad Cities should be drawn in with Rockford and whole Northwestern quadrant. The Peoria disrict would be West Central Illinois.

Is there anything that citizens can do either now or in 2011?

At 7/16/2006 1:03 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

It's probably that Hastert, with everyone convinced that it was Delay and not the neckless wonder who had the real power, wanted to flex his muscles the way Delay did when he perverted Texas redistricting.

At least the IL Dems didn't have to flee the legislature in the dead of night to avoid getting roped into signing their own death warrant like happened in Texas. (With Delay, of course, using the resources of the Dept. of "Homeland" security to track down their planes. And then, when reminded that that was the resources of the federal government, famously saying, "I AM the federal government.")

At 7/16/2006 9:42 PM, Blogger Scott said...

I was very disappointed in the Supreme Court for not ending this practice a few weeks ago. There needs to be a federal law that does not allow for these snake like districts.

As much as it helps my party in Illinois, it hurts my party in Texas. We need to be fair in this matter.

At 7/17/2006 6:54 AM, Blogger MediaBurn said...

As someone who grew up a town over from Hastert (the town he now calls home), I find it absolutely comical his district stretches out to the Quad Cities.

What impacts Kendall, western Kane, DeKalb, LaSalle and Grundy counties doesn't necessarily impact Geneseo, Sterling and Amboy.

At 7/17/2006 4:22 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

I hope the young man to whom I recently tried to explain the irrelevance of Mark Baker's 90's numbers will discover and ponder this. And Scott, this doesn't help your party in Illinois, either. Sacrificed one to build three safe ones for them, burned the dangerous dem vote where it can't hurt anybody they wanna retain.

At 7/17/2006 9:30 PM, Blogger diehard said...

They should at least go along county lines!

At 7/17/2006 10:18 PM, Blogger Rob Mellon said...

Incumbency is the key political factor in determining electoral results - in fact, in the 2002 congressional elections incumbents won 99% of the 435 elections - moreover, in 88% of the elections the incumbent garnered more than 60% of the vote. That is the results for the entire country. I am not a lawyer - maybe you can help here umrblog - but the 2-year term was designed to hold the House's feet to the fire - that is simply not happening. There is not that many marginal races - those where a challenger actually has a chance to win. In any given election year you could count them on one hand - in most cases. Not surprisingly these districts are where almost all of the money is funneled. In the districts where there has been a real challenge - the cost of those races has been astronomical. Numbingly, since 1970 there have only been one or two elections where a challenger has upset an incumbent and spent less than $100,000. Even when challengers spend over a million dollars (which is an indicator of a close race) they win less than 30% of the time. As for the redistricting - the Court is going to very reluctant to challenge the states' authority to determine congressional districts - there is over 200 years of federal deference on this matter and I do not think that it is going to change soon. I think that campaign spending limits are the only way to accomplish any real electoral balance - but the Court has been reluctant to entertain massive reforms of the finance system for fear of curbing 1st Amendment rights - I also doubt the current court with Scalia, Thomas and Alito has going to allow any major campaign reform efforts. In the end it is up to strong candidates to throw political caution to the wind and make each primary a true voyage to find the best candidates. Incumbents depend on the perception that they are impregnable – each election cycle needs real challenges in every district. If there is going to be such a dynamic incumbent advantage let’s hope at the very least they have to earn their victories.

At 7/17/2006 10:42 PM, Blogger highxlr8r said...

I also tend to like the idea of districts that follow municipal and/or natural geographic outlines.

However, doing so WILL significantly reduce the number of Democratic seats in Congress. THe state of Wisconsin did an experiment, using computer modeling, with rules to keep local boundaries intact. The results were disastrous for democrats, because Democrats tend to be packed tightly into urban areas. The result was a few heavily Democratic districts (over 85%) and the rest were safe Republican Districts, meaning they were notcompetitive (Although more competitive than the Democratic seats - I can't remember the percentages.)

I think in the long term it may be good for Democrats to have such a districting system, but in the short term, it will be awful, and Democratic reformers have to realize a sacrifice would have to be made.

I will try to find a link to the Wisconsin study, and get better details.

At 7/18/2006 1:07 AM, Blogger Rob Mellon said...

What highxlr8r is suggesting was the norm before the Court ordered districts to be more equal in terms of population. Nevada's largest district used to have more than 700,000 residents and its smallest had 90,000. That does not represent the Constitutional goal of one person, one vote. There is no reason for Nevada's smallest district to have a disproportionately louder political voice. Having municipal or geographic boundaries are fine just as long as they do not create a massive difference between the largest and smallest congressional districts. The problem is not that districts cut across boundaries. The problem arises when specific segments of a district are targeted to either include or exclude those voters to give one of the parties a strategic political advantage. In the end, cities such as Quincy and Rock Island are not that much different - there is no reason that they cannot be in the same district - in addition the diversity of a district can be strength. The lines themselves are not the problem - the problem is that those lines have been drawn with the specific goal of increasing the success of incumbents. I would have no problem with incredibly misshaped districts if they were created with no ulterior motive in mind.

At 7/18/2006 11:53 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

The goals you laid out are all sound and worthy of pursuing, perhaps aside from your desire to link Quincy and the QCs in the same district.

But I think equal weight should be given to creating districts which are somewhat compact and regular in shape.

Besides satisfying some basic ethstetic need and looking much better on a map, there are other reasons.

There is the fact that citizens should have some idea of what district they're in. Someone living in spot A shouldn't have a different representitive than people living slightly north and slightly south of them, for example. People living in one small neighborhood shouldn't have two different reps.

And conversely, bizarre mishapen districts as the 17th create hardships and confusion for the candidates as well.

Not only do they have more geographic area to cover to campaign, they also have to try to figure out what the interests are of a vastly spread out area. And when towns, citys, or regions are split up into 3 or 4 districts, how can their interests be effectively represented?

If Springfield is split into three districts, lets say, and two are Dem and one Republican, how could issues of interest to the town be effectively represented? Especially when the three districts might include other areas that are in direct competition with Springfield?

Campaigns and incumbants shouldn't have to spend hours consulting maps and legal descriptions to figure out which alley their district snakes up or down.

Nor should they have a district, such as the 17th, which is a 420 mile, over 8 hour drive non-stop from the one end to the other without leaving the district.
Or in the case of the 15th, 300 miles and a 6 hour drive from tip to tip.

To cover either district and hit most of the towns along the way would take several days.

In other words, you shouldn't be able to drive down a highway, or a city street and go in and out of a district as many as three times or more.

I'd hope that, like other states, there'd be some way to both achieve a rough balance as to population of the districts as well as make them compact and contiguous.

At 7/18/2006 11:58 AM, Blogger Rob Mellon said...

I agree with your comments


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