Local Editorials

Attention to redistricting

Few voters are sorry to see the 2010 election season end, with its negative television commercials and annoying robo-calls.

Many people see such campaign tactics as unfair and manipulative. The ads insult our intelligence and discourage voter turnout.

Those who despise being manipulated by Illinois politicians in 2010 should not turn a blind eye to even greater manipulation in 2011. That’s when politicians will use 2010 Census figures to draw new congressional and legislative districts.

If the maps drawn in 2001 are any indication, today’s politicians will go all out to seek maximum advantage in next year’s redistricting process. The result will be oddly drawn, confusing districts that ignore county, township, city and precinct lines.

The outcome generally is good for the party in power. Democrats who controlled the last redistricting enjoy a 70-48 majority in the House and a 37-22 majority in the Senate.

But it’s bad for the people. Democrats failed to use their majorities to rescue cash-strapped Illinois from sliding further into an abyss of debt, deficits and unpaid bills.

Like campaign commercials, the 2001 districts are unfair. They created artificial power bases for one party at the expense of the other.

The 2001 districts are manipulative. They used established voting patterns to predict future outcomes so that one party is guaranteed a better chance of winning, and its incumbents are less accountable for their actions.

Efforts were put forth earlier this year to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and put it into the hands of the people. However, the Illinois Fair Map Amendment petition drive collected only 120,000 signatures, far below the 280,000 required.

So, the 1970 Constitution will prevail next year, which usually means the redistricting stalemate is broken by the luck of the draw, one party will control the process, and the other will spend the next decade trying to fight back.

A recent poll by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois shows that voters want change. A majority preferred that districts be drawn by an independent, nonpartisan commission, not by politicians who stand to benefit by the results.

Lacking that independent commission, the next best thing for citizens and reform groups to do is to draw their own proposed maps next year. By demonstrating how fair, competitive districts can be created that respect county, city, township and precinct boundaries, such maps might shame Illinois politicians into doing the same.

The 2010 election season is over. The 2011 redistricting season looms. People resist manipulation by politicians during elections. They should do the same during redistricting.

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