Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Redistricting meets the "criss-cross"

The State-Journal Register reports that efforts to put a redistricting amendment to the Illinois constitution on the ballot in November via the legislate route have failed. There is independent effort to collect enough petitions to get on the ballot, fitting called the Independent Map Amendment. They seem to have collected many more signatures than they need, but because many signatures get thrown out, the amendment could be stricken from the ballot, as a similar effort was in 2014, thanks largely to Mike Madigan.

Independent Map Amendment
After the break: how the criss-cross works to prevent reform.

 The circus in the Assembly today was a fine example of what Rich Miller of Capitol Fax calls the "criss-cross". In this case the House overwhelmingly approved a real redistricting plan (different from that of the Independent Map group, but still a move toward non-partisanship in establishing districts). Democrats in the Senate backed a plan that was far less substantive. The House overwhelmingly approved its bill; the Senate plan passed on a more or less party line vote. Today a Senate committee narrowly rejected the House plan, which means no plan from the legislature will go before voters.

The criss-cross allows most in both chambers to say they've voted to reform the way districts are drawn--while being quite confident that no such measure would pass. The measures don't pass because gerrymandering protects incumbents, especially incumbent Democrats.

Here in Southern Illinois we see the impact of the latest gerrymandered districts in the fact that Carbondale is split down the middle, which presumably dilutes our influence in the legislature. A map of Terri Bryant's (R) district shows how crazy this gets; I don't know all the details but surely the little zig-zag to keep her clear of NE Carbondale was designed to keep black Democratic voters in a neighboring democratic district, the 118th (Brandon Phelps-D).

I hope the Independent Map makes it to the ballot and gets approved. In the meantime, I've learned a little lesson in the way our current system works, by providing representatives with the opportunity to vote for reforms that could endanger their hold on power while knowing full well that reform won't come.

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