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Illinois Democrats embrace gerrymandering in US House fight

CHICAGO – In the neck-and-neck fight to keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats need help from the few places where state lawmakers can make 2022 difficult for Republicans.

Illinois Democrats delivered on Thursday, using their dominance in state government to advance new congressional district maps intended to eliminate two Republican-held districts and send more Democrats to Washington.

To do this, Illinois Democrats adopted gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district boundaries for political purposes against which party leaders including former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder , denounced “rigged” elections. The new map is a collection of odd shapes resembling abstract art and, according to critics, a symbol of the hypocrisy of Democrats.

“This is a desperate card from a desperate party,” said Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, which coordinates the redistribution for the GOP. He called him “America’s most extreme gerrymander”.

Both parties use gerrymandering, although Democrats were more actively opposed to it after the GOP used the practice in 2011 to create huge benefits for the next decade. Obama traveled to the Illinois Capitol where he was once a state senator to deliver a speech on America’s broken political system, claiming that gerrymandering – bringing together party supporters in one district or to disperse voters from the other party for political advantage – was why nothing could get done in Congress.

Democrats in some states have even relinquished their own power by pushing independent commissions to draw borders. And Holder became chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which has supported legal challenges to GOP-drawn maps in places like North Carolina and Virginia.

Illinois Democrats, meanwhile, have done everything they can to exercise control and ensure that it benefits their candidates in the election until 2030. Even though Illinois loses a seat due to the loss population, the map was drawn to create a congressional delegation of 14 Democrats and three Republicans starting in 2022, a change from the current 13-5 split. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a non-partisan group that evaluates the cards, gave Illinois cards an “F” rating, saying they give Democrats a significant advantage and are “very uncompetitive.”

The cards – as well as the cards of other Democratic-controlled states like New York – could be essential as Democrats try to hold onto their slim majority midway through next year, when the White House party has historically had bad results. Republicans are in charge of the mapping known as redistribution in more than twice as many states as Democrats, including large growing states like Texas and Florida.

Illinois Democrats have defended the maps they released Thursday night and passed shortly thereafter, saying they ensure minorities and other Illinois residents have an equal voice in government.

“I’m proud of this card,” said Illinois Senate Speaker Don Harmon, a sponsor of the redistribution legislation. “This is a fair map and it reflects the diversity of the state of Illinois.” He also said lawmakers chose to unite communities “that shared political philosophies and political goals.”

Democrats added a second predominantly Latino district, after census data showed Illinois’ Latino population has grown over the past decade. They also maintained three predominantly black neighborhoods.

GOP Representatives Adam Kinzinger, one of 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump, and Darin LaHood were placed in the same heavily Republican district, as were GOP Representatives Mike Bost and Mary Miller.

Republican Rep. Rodney Davis, who has said he could challenge Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker next year based on the final map, has been dragged into a GOP safe neighborhood that winds from side to side in the state. It surrounds another Democratic-leaning neighborhood that has been carved like a narrow scribble spanning nearly 200 miles from the University of Illinois home to Democrat-friendly communities east of St. Louis. A former Pritzker aide who worked in the Biden administration, Democrat Nikki Budzinski, is running for the seat.

Not all Democrats are happy. First-term Democratic Representative Marie Newman was drawn to the same Latin American-majority district as Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, an endgame decision that Newman said was made “to appease one person. and a small handful of wealthy insiders at the expense of workers and working families “in his current neighborhood.

Democrats say the move – sacrificing one of their own party – proves the new cards are fair and should survive expected court challenges.

The Illinois Senate approved the cards Thursday night, with all Republicans voting no. The House was due to consider it later Thursday.

The Democrats’ aggressive mapping began earlier this year, when they insisted on approving new legislative maps of the state – which will strengthen their grip on the State House and Senate for another decade – using population estimates rather than census bureau data, making Illinois the only state in the nation to do so. Legislative leaders said they were faced with a deadline set by the state’s constitution, but that deadline was only for Democrats to have full control of the process, rather than a bipartisan commission.

Lawmakers had to remake these maps after census data showed they were unconstitutional because districts vary widely in terms of population. Lawsuits to have the new cards rejected are ongoing.

Pritzker signed both the first set of legislative cards and the rework cards, despite pledging during his 2018 campaign to veto all legislative cards drawn by politicians. He is also expected to sign the Congressional Democratic cards.


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