Stephanopoulos on Redistricting in Illinois

Time to get the foxes (Illinois politicians) Out of the henhouse (legislative redistricting)
Nicholas Stephanopoulos
Chicago Tribune
July 18, 2013

It was pure politics, red in tooth and claw, when Illinois' legislative districts were last redrawn. In full control of the state government, the Democrats advantaged themselves in every conceivable way. They bolstered vulnerable Democratic incumbents, paired Republicans wherever they could, and drew dozens of odd-looking districts designed to boost their electoral prospects. According to Politico, House Speaker Michael Madigan "punched his ticket to the partisan hall of fame" by muscling the district plans through the Illinois legislature.

Dismayed by this spectacle, CHANGE Illinois!, a coalition of nonprofit groups and business leaders, recently launched its effort to put a redistricting amendment on the 2014 ballot. The goal is to withdraw the line-drawing power from the legislature and to entrust it to an independent commission. This commission would be made up of ordinary Illinois citizens, screened first for their expertise and impartiality, and then selected almost the same way juries are now picked. The commission would design General Assembly districts on the basis of good-government criteria like contiguity, respect for communities of interest and partisan fairness. And its plans would take effect after being approved by a supermajority of its members, without any need for legislative action.

The strongest argument for the proposal is also the simplest one: Politicians shouldn't be responsible for carving the districts in which they will then run themselves. The risk is just too high that line-drawing legislators will prioritize their own interests over the good of the public. The Federal Reserve exists because we don't trust elected officials to set interest rates based on the economy's condition instead of their own re-election needs. Similarly, a redistricting commission is necessary because we can't rely on politicians to shape districts based on legitimate criteria rather than partisan or incumbent advantage.

Comments

A lovely idea that would no

A lovely idea that would no doubt promote good government. I would, however, add one amendment: the law would only be in effect at such times as the State of Texas has in effect a comparable law. Otherwise, it amounts to unilateral disarmament.