Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ward Room: Turning Illinois blue

It seems if you simply wanted to draw a map of Congressional Districts that favors the Democrats it's not that easy. Especially if Republicans are better distributed throughout the state.
The map does raise a valid question, though. As a Blue State, should Illinois have a majority Democratic delegation? That was the rationale that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay used when he convinced the Texas legislature to redraw congressional districts to erase a Democratic majority. And that will certainly be an argument Democrats use when redrawing Illinois’s map. With majorities in the House and Senate, and control of the governorship, Democrats can design a map without Republican input. They’ll undoubtedly make sure the district we lose this year contains a Republican congressman.

The Democrats’ dilemma is that it’s more difficult to draw a Democratic map than a Republican map. That’s because Democrats are packed into urban areas, where they deliver huge majorities for their congressmen. Danny Davis, Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr. all won with over 80 percent of the vote in 2010. The winningest Republicans – John Shimkus, Aaron Schock and Donald Manzullo – won with 71 percent, 69 percent and 65 percent, respectively.

From a mapmaker’s perspective, those big Democratic majorities are wasted votes that could be used to help Democrats win in swing districts. But it’s impossible to draw those voters into swing districts without producing a gerrymandered map that makes it impossible for anyone to figure out who represents them in Washington. Also, diluting those districts too much would violate the Voting Rights Act, which guarantees minority representation. In short, Republicans are more efficiently distributed. That’s why, even in years when Republicans won the most seats in Congress, Democratic congressional candidates won the most votes nationwide.
I can live without "gerrymandering" personally. Why can't we just draw districts will little consideration for political demographics?

I can understand somewhat creating districts for racial or ethnic minorities to insure that they can elect a representative to a city council, county board, state legislature, or Congress. At the same time I hope this doesn't lead any potential political map maker to be real creative and create illogical districts.

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