Local Editorials

Map process hardly open

Maybe the heat got to her.

That’s one explanation for a statement made last week by a spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn regarding Illinois’ newly drawn legislative districts, which were crafted behind closed doors by House and Senate Democrats and signed into law by Quinn.

“This open and transparent process resulted in a map that represents our diverse state and protects the voting rights of minorities,” Annie Thompson said.

The words “open” and “transparent” certainly are open to interpretation. To House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, the process was exactly the opposite – closed and opaque.

Closed, as in how majority Democrats allowed absolutely no Republicans or members of the public in the room as the legislative maps were drawn.

Opaque, as in how majority Democrats would not even release the names of the people who drew the maps.

Among other reasons, that’s why Cross and Radogno filed a lawsuit last week in federal court to have the Democratic-drawn legislative district map declared invalid.

As proof of the map’s blatant political bent, the suit states that it pits 25 incumbent Republican members of the General Assembly against one another. How many Democratic incumbents were put in the same situation? Only eight.

Brian Gaines, a University of Illinois political scientist, noticed the partisan tilt. He commented last month:

“In brief, these maps were plainly designed to harm Republican incumbents and to reduce the number of expected Republican seats.”

In defense of Democrats, the party, which controls the House, Senate and governor’s mansion, conducted more hearings compared to 2001, and a lot of testimony was taken before the maps were drawn.

The problem is, little testimony was taken after the secretly drawn maps were released toward the very end of the legislative session. Amid the rush to approve the maps, that testimony was mostly ignored.

A veneer of openness is no substitute for a redistricting process where all sides are involved, start to finish, so that the interests of people, not political parties, are respected and preserved.

In the event that Quinn’s spokeswoman really meant what she said, we invite the governor to bring forth greater openness and transparency.

Quinn should demand that legislative mapmakers show the public all the information they used to draw the district lines, so people can judge for themselves whether the maps are fair.

The Dems also haven’t divulged the districts’ political balance. Why the secrecy, unless there is something to hide?

One thing is certain. Illinois still doesn’t have a process that produces fair maps. We wish it did.

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