Illinois Will Continue to Have Uncompetitive Elections without Independent Maps

Despite obtaining more than half a million petition signatures to put a redistricting reform amendment on the Illinois ballot in November, legal challenges kept the measure off the ballot. The effects of having partisan maps are likely to be evident when Illinois votes in three weeks.

The Independent Map Amendment sought to institute an independent panel of eleven to draw districts and eliminate gerrymandering. The panel would have included Republicans, Democrats, and a pool selecting the remaining members. In September, the Illinois Supreme Court declined to reconsider its original 4-3 ruling against it and the ballot measure was officially dead for 2016.

Even if the amendment was not legally challenged and removed from the November 8 ballot, the measure would not have taken effect until after the next census.

However, Illinois may demonstrate that the current process of partisans drawing districts produces uncompetitive elections.

Of Illinois’ 18 congressional districts, only the 10th is certain to be competitive. In that North Shore district, Republican incumbent Robert Dold faces Democrat Brad Schneider for the third consecutive time. The candidates have alternated electoral victories since 2012.

Democrat Tammy Duckworth vacated her seat to run for U.S. Senate, making the 8th district the only open seat in the state. Although an open seat theoretically could be competitive, the northwest Chicago district still leans Democratic. According to the latest reports at OpenSecrets.org, Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi is outspending Republican Pete DiCianni nearly 100 to 1.

Four districts feature candidates running unopposed. Democrats held a monopoly drawing districts after the 2010 U.S. Census. However, two of those districts are held by the GOP. Republican John Shimkus, for instance, is running unopposed and his seat covers one of the larger geographic areas in the country.

In seven primary races there were no candidates who filed at all. Democrats nominated a candidate in at least one race during a convention simply to have a name on the ballot.

Independent Maps chairman Dennis FitzSimons tried to remain optimistic when the Illinois Supreme Court refused to re-hear the case. He said:

“Our coalition remains committed to reform and believes an independent redistricting commission would be one important step in changing state government and making the legislature more responsive to the voters of this state.”

Governor Bruce Rauner continues his support for reform saying, “I will never give up on trying to get those reforms.”

However, the failure of the ballot measure is likely to show itself this November in uncompetitive elections across the state.