Republicans and Democrats both have gerrymandered for decades to protect party representation in friendly states. As state legislatures presumptively draw congressional districts, each state has significant power to maximize the preferred party’s dominance in its congressional delegation. However, the line-drawing is always subject to being challenged in federal court, and there are limits on how far a state can go.
Powerful Democrats are well known for speaking out against gerrymandering, but only when it benefits Republicans. Earlier this month, former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder said that “Republican gerrymandering” is a “real danger” to American democracy. Of course, Holder typically acts as if only one side is involved in strategically drawing district lines.
Now, heavily Democratic Illinois may have accidentally helped out Republicans through their latest exercise in extreme gerrymandering. They released their proposed re-drawn map based on the 2020 federal census that resulted in the state losing one seat in Congress because of population loss.
— Lynn Sweet (@lynnsweet) October 15, 2021
The map has classically gerrymandered districts stretched out all across the state that were set up to provide 14 Democrat seats and only three Republican seats in the next Congress.
Dave Wasserman is an expert in congressional districting and believes that the new map has unintentionally created three tossup districts for seats currently held by Democrats. He said the way the new districts are drawn appears as if Democrats have “gone out their way” to make their seats less safe. It would have only taken minor modifications to make 14 of the seats “Biden +10 or more,” referencing how the vote came out in last year’s presidential election.
With a few slightly different choices (example, right), 14/17 districts would've been Biden +10 or more. pic.twitter.com/gOw2buyqO8
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) October 16, 2021
Wasserman reported that one Republican strategist he knows made a joke that a “mole” from the Republican side must have helped to draw the map. He also said that a Democrat he knows said that if the party wanted to “make it that ugly, at least make it more effective.”
In January, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), a strident never-Trumper who supported impeaching President Trump, publicly complained that his district had been re-drawn as predominantly Democratic.
Because the state government of Illinois is firmly in the grasp of Democrats, the map is a virtual lock to be approved. It might turn up some interesting results if the midterm elections next year trend in the way it appears they might.