Editorial: Court's gerrymandering decision lets the people down

  • Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the majority in the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling against intervening on partisan gerrymandering.

    Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the majority in the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling against intervening on partisan gerrymandering. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 6/30/2019 12:39 PM

We all tend to think we live in a republic built around democratic principles, with a government, as Abraham Lincoln said, "of the people, by the people, for the people."

We hate to say this, but to some degree, we kid ourselves. It is not hyperbolic to warn against the erosion of our freedoms.


One significant example is gerrymandering, the practice of dominant political parties drawing Congressional and legislative maps in such a way as to ensure the elections of their party's candidates.

Ironically, as our technology grows increasingly more sophisticated, it provides the capability to draw these maps more fairly.

Unfortunately, the parties just take advantage of that increased sophistication to draw maps even more to their liking.

This is no small thing. It turns the concept of one-person-one-vote into a fallacy. It enables dominant parties to increase their dominance and enables elected politicians to ensure their reelections.

In Illinois, Democrats do this and are pretty blatant about it. But it's not like this is endemic to one party. In some other states -- Texas, for example -- Republicans do.

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In Illinois, and throughout the country, organized citizens initiatives have worked to change this without a lot of success. But until last week, there was reason for optimism. Good government activists looked to the Supreme Court to protect the electorate.

Then Thursday, the court handed down a horrible blow to democracy. In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that even though it recognized that district boundaries were being drawn through partisan gerrymandering, it is up to the voters, not the courts, to address that.

Such an appalling abdication of the court's responsibilities.

That argument misses the point that in manipulating the process, the gerrymandering essentially takes the power to make decisions out of the hands of the electorate.

This is not a conservative or liberal issue. It is a liberty issue. Through gerrymandering, the political parties gain power, the voters lose power.

CHANGE Illinois, a nonpartisan advocacy group on this issue, has not given up its efforts to pass an amendment to the state constitution to change how our districts are drawn.


But let's not kid ourselves. Though the politicians give lip service to the effort, nothing so far has gotten done.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has vowed to bring about redistricting reform, but on this issue, is he a showhorse or a workhorse?

The court has let the people down. If something is going to be done about the abuse, as CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek says, the people are going to have to "rise up and pressure the parties that be to take this up."

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