Monday, October 11, 2004

Tribune endorses Bean and a new congressional map for Illinois

Today's Tribune endorsed Melissa Bean over Phil Crane in a surprising editorial. The Tribune helped to found the Republican Party and it is not an easy thing for the paper to endorse a Democrat.

Sadly, that will probably not be enough to defeat Phil Crane, given the gerrymandered district. I could be wrong (and hope so), but I'm playing the pessimistic role in this debate.

Intriguingly, the Trib also wrote:

Thanks to a redistricting of congressional boundaries that was accomplished with one goal in mind -- protecting both Democratic and Republican incumbents -- few races in the state are seriously contested. Illinois should consider a better way to remap -- one that puts voters ahead of politicians. But that's for another day.


Not bad. Looks like someone (I'm guessing Bruce Dold or Steve Chapman) understand that power of the single-member districts to lock in results, but couldn't get the rest of the board to really back it, since they don't really get it yet. But that's progress.

We can do two things. One, we can redraw many of the white districts to make them roughly 50-50 between D and R voters (at least, we can do that with Mark Kirk's district, Jerry Weller's district, maybe Henry Hyde's district and in a stretch, Phil Crane's district). We can't really make the three black districts and the Latino district competitive, because there are too many D voters. This can be done with a partisan remap in Springfield (like what the Republicans did in Texas under Tom DeLay), but with the goal of creating more competitive districts instead of locked-in Democratic districts. Maybe that will be seen as OK by the Republicans, especially if the Trib provides some cover.

There was an attempt to do so this year in the General Assembly, led by the legislature's most prolific lawmaker John Cullerton. SB 2127 started the discussion, but Speaker Madigan nixed the plan. Maybe this editorial will help to change the Speaker's mind.

The second thing we can do is abolish single-member districts and use a type of proportional representation in multi-member districts. The most competitive system we could use would elect the 19 Members of Congress from Illinois statewide, where 1/19 of the vote elects one Member of Congress. That would avoid our current situation in Blue State Illinois, where Democrats always win, and we have 10 Republican Members of Congress and 9 Democrats. That's the power of the single-member district -- it distorts the votes.

Somewhere in between would be having three big districts -- one for Chicago with 5 Members, one for the collar counties and suburban Cook with 5 or 6 Members, one for Northern Illinois with 4 Members and one for Southern Illinois with 3 or 4 Members. That way, 1/5 of the vote in Chicago elects someone, 1/4 in Northern Illinois, etc. We could provide for cumulative voting rights, like we did in the Illinois House until 1982 in 3-seat districts, to create more competitive elections. And a great benefit would be representation from the political minority. Chicago Republicans should have representation. DuPage Democrats should have representation. Now they don't. That's not representative government. For more, see the Midwest Democracy Center.

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