The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments on a Wisconsin case brought by Democrats who say the Republicans in power drew a map that cheats them. The case could bring all states to constitutional heel and end gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative districts to benefit the party in power.
This is not a partisan issue: Both parties have sinned in Illinois and punished the minority party when given the chance. President Obama railed against the practice while in office, saying voters should choose their elected leaders, elected leaders should not choose their voters.
Former Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain and Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse together called on the justices to end partisan political maps.
“The American people do not like gerrymandering. It leaves them feeling powerless and discouraged; that their votes are wasted and voices silenced,” the senators wrote in a brief filed in the case. “Elections ought to belong to the people.”
Illinois suffers more than most states. Biased maps and the lack of candidates with a hope of beating the incumbents means 60 percent of the 2016 races for the Illinois General Assembly offered no choice at all. That has allowed a 32-year Madigan dynasty and Springfield gridlock that gave us two years without a state budget and $15 billion in unpaid bills.
Iowa mapmakers are sheltered from politicians as they use demographics to draw maps. Look at their compact, square districts compared to ours, which lump the interests and demographics of East St. Louis, Smithton and Lebanon into the same district.
In Illinois we can’t even ask the question about independent maps. A petition signed by 570,000 Illinois voters would have let voters create an independent map commission similar to Iowa’s, but Madigan’s lawyers killed the effort before voters got a say.
We can’t seem to fix Illinois. Let’s hope nine robed vocalists make it possible for more of our independent thinkers to “Run, Run, Run.”