There could be a natural disaster in Indiana or Missouri that drives population to Illinois. It could happen. But the likely scenario is that Illinois will continue losing population.
Between July 2014 and July 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau calculated Illinois lost 105, 217 residents to other states — a record amount of folks choosing to leave. After the births and deaths were factored in, the total population dropped 22,000. That makes us an anomaly compared to our growing Midwestern neighbors.
The rest of the nation since the 2010 Census has grown 4.1 percent. Illinois grew 0.2 percent. That means when 2020 comes around and we again count each person in our nation to determine distribution of those 435 U.S. representative seats, Illinois is poised to lose again.
In the 1970s we had 24 U.S. representatives. The decades dropped Illinois to 22, 20, 19 and now 18 representatives. Do we hear 17?
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Losing representatives means less influence in Congress for Illinois, fewer choice committee assignments for remaining congress members, less of a voice in presidential elections and dilution of our individual power because each representative gains 90,000 more constituents competing for time and attention. Taken together, these losses also equal fewer of our federal tax dollars returning to Illinois, and we already stink on that measure by ranking third worst in the nation by getting 45 cents back on every $1.
Redistricting can be counted on to protect incumbents, regardless of the party in power. The current petition drive for state legislative district reform will not touch how our state redraws federal congressional districts.
As President Obama noted in his State of the Union Address: “We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.” Compact, logical districts that preserve voters’ clout should be the product of a bipartisan or nonpartisan group, and not of a dominant group making deals in smoke-filled back rooms.
We still have a few years to get our state’s financial house in order and make this an attractive place to do business. Drawing people to Illinois for jobs and keeping our young people from moving away to find opportunities will help stop our congressional clout slump, lighten everyone’s tax burden and solve a litany of our current woes.