Illinois Democrats embrace gerrymandering to keep control of US House of Representatives

Gerrymandering is the practice of redrawing district boundaries for political benefits

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 29 October 2021 13:44 BST
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With an eye on 2022, Illinois Democrats on Thursday used gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing district boundaries for political benefit, to keep control of the US House of Representatives.

Gerrymandering allows politicians to redraw district maps and pack supporters into one district or disperse them in different districts for electoral gains.

The new Illinois map creates a congressional delegation of 14 Democrats and three Republicans starting in 2022, in comparison to the current 13-5 split. One seat was lost due to population loss.

Three new majority Black districts and a second Latino-dominated district in the state have been created, after census data showed that the population had grown in the state.

The map also regroups Republicans in the same districts to put Democrats at an advantage. For instance, GOP Representative Adam Kinzinger will now be in the heavily Republican district as his GOP colleagues Mike Bost and Mary Miller.

Mr Kinzinger, a moderate Republican, is one of 10 Republicans who had voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.

Republican Representative Rodney Davis has been put into a safe GOP district that surrounds another Democrat leaning district. Mr Davis had said that he may challenge Democratic Governor JB Pritzker depending on the final map.

Illinois and other Democrat states with redrawn maps like New York could be crucial to the Democrats fight in the mid-term elections next year.

However, experts said that the map, while advantageous, was not competitive. The map was given an “F” grade by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a non-partisan group that evaluates maps.

Earlier this week, Joe Hackler, a spokesman for the Illinois GOP, told Fox News that the new map disenfranchises voters.

"As we said for the last version of the map, Illinois Democrats, led by Governor JB Pritzker, have made it clear that they are willing to disenfranchise Illinois voters and break repeated campaign promises to do the bidding of [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and DC power brokers," Mr Hackler said.

A spokesperson for representative Adam Kinzinger told Fox News on Monday that the map was anything but “transparent”.

Illinois Democrats defended the map and said that the regrouping gives all communities an equal voice.

“This is a fair map and it reflects the diversity of the state of Illinois,” said Illinois senate president Don Harmon, a sponsor of the redistricting legislation.

Mr Harmon added that with the map, lawmakers chose to unite communities “that shared political philosophies and policy objectives.”

The map was approved by the governor late Thursday, when all Republicans voted against it.

Governor Pritzker signed on the maps despite a 2018 campaign pledge that he would veto any map redrawn by politicians.

While the practice of gerrymandering is used by both Democrats and Republicans, the Democrats have more actively opposed the practice.

In 2011, former President Barrack Obama, who has also served as a senator from Illinois referred to gerrymandering as one of the aspects of the broken nature of the American political system and one of the reasons that nothing could get done in the Congress.

Democrats started remapping districts aggressively earlier this year to strengthen their hold on the Senate and the House of Representatives for the next decade. The new Illinois map is expected to ensure benefits till 2030.

The regrouping of districts with the new maps is also crucial ahead of next year’s mid-term elections to the House of Representatives where history shows that the Democrats performance has been poor.

Republicans oversee remapping of twice the number of states than Democrats, including large states like Texas and Florida.

(With additional reporting from agencies)

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