17 Illinois legislators join call to end gerrymandering
Fifteen Illinois Republicans and two Democrats have joined a bipartisan coalition of 65 lawmakers across eight states in an effort to end gerrymandering by backing an amicus curiae brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month.
Lawmakers signed their support of Gill v. Whitford, a redistricting case in which a U.S. district court found that Wisconsin violated certain protection provided by the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment when it used gerrymandering to create the state’s legislative district map. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Oct. 3.
Illinois has had fair mapping and redistricting efforts shot down twice by the state courts despite massive support from voters and various lawmakers. Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) argued on Northern Public Radio that Gill v. Whitford might be one of the last avenues available for Illinois to redraw its legislative maps.
“Partisan politics, Republican and Democrat, has skewed the redistricting process so that it’s not fair,” Pritchard said.
Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville), who also signed the brief, echoed Pritchard’s comments, saying that it is important for Illinois to be recognized in the brief after years of gerrymandering.
“Modern-day partisan gerrymandering undermines the democratic process and is an effective tool by which a select few politicians are able to methodically and effectively shut out the opposing party, preserving the power of one party at the expense of the voters,” Connelly said on his website. “As noted in the brief, ‘voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.’ I’m proud to join like-minded colleagues as part of an effort to urge the Court to safeguard democracy from the gross political gerrymandering that is all-too-evident in Illinois.”
Connelly contended that state Democrats have long used the legislative maps to their advantage, undermining democracy in Illinois.
“Illinois’ legislative districts are drawn with one purpose: to create and maintain political power,” Connelly said. “Through the last redistricting process, Democrats drew Illinois’ map to their advantage, splitting up similar communities while at the same time combining dissimilar communities. This extreme gerrymandering weakens the representative government to which all Illinois citizens are entitled.”
Many in Illinois, including Illinois Republican Party spokesman Aaron DeGroot, asserted that the state’s top Democrat, House Speaker Michael Madigan(D-Chicago), has utilized extreme gerrymandering to maintain his power and his control.
"For Mike Madigan, 46 years in power isn't enough,” DeGroot said in a statement. “Even though he's in his twilight years, Madigan wants to stick around until the 2020 remap so he can consolidate power and stick it to voters one last time."
Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), who also signed the brief, contended that Gill v. Whitford is especially important for Illinois because if the Supreme Court sides with the lawmakers, it could be a step for Illinois to end the extreme gerrymandering.
“Our legislative districts here in Illinois are a prime example of how districts are created at the interest of the majority party,” McConnaughay said on her website. “There is no place for political influence, bias, or self-interest when it comes to drawing districts.”
She stressed that it is of “the utmost importance that the democratic process is not manipulated.”
Others who have signed the brief are Sens. William Brady (R-Bloomington), Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorne), Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst), Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet), Sue Rezin (R-Morris), Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) and Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria), as well as Reps. Scott Drury (D-Highwood), Michael Fortner (R-West Chicago), Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and David Olsen (R-Downers Grove).
The other states involved in the action are Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Maryland.