Editorial: Fight for Fair Maps now may be futile, but it's not too early to look to 2030
It surprised no one last week when the Illinois General Assembly approved new legislative redistricting maps along strict party lines. But that doesn't make the disappointment hurt any less for the millions of Illinoisans who care about good government.
Lawmakers already had passed -- and the Democratic governor signed -- legislative maps based on incomplete Census data. Considering their comfort level with an action based on questionable numbers, it was certainly no shock and almost beyond the reach of outrage to watch House and Senate Democrats continue to play out a charade of fairness supposedly undertaken to "correct" shortcomings revealed by the belated release of official Census figures.
Indeed, outrage seems a wasted, almost embarrassing, expense of energy in the wake of years of all-but-official Democratic obstruction and the ultimate cave to political expediency by the handful of party members who rose up for a few critical months before the election to call for a fairer process of defining political boundaries, only to squirm back in among the party faithful when it came time to stand up and be counted,
Outrage is of little use, of course, if not accompanied by consequences, and, although Illinoisans overwhelmingly want changes that would take politics out of drawing representative boundaries, they seem to have little will, or perhaps opportunity, to hold elected officials accountable at the ballot box. But perhaps other options remain.
Persistence, for one.
It is generally assumed that redistricting reform is dead in Illinois because all the deadlines have passed that would allow for changes in the process this decade. As far as it goes, that is undeniably correct.
But another decade is coming -- and perhaps its start is far enough away that it could allow self-interested lawmakers who wouldn't act in the public interest now because it conflicted with their personal interest to seriously take up a cause that will only affect the political careers of people who come after them.
Excellent, meaningful proposals are on the table for redistricting reform in Illinois, and numerous Democrats as well as Republicans have claimed to support them in principal. Considering how long it can take to change the Illinois Constitution, what better time than now for these "reformers" to step up and prepare the way for changes that could take effect before the 2030 Census?
Democrats who previously supported reform became embarrassingly quiet when the current political mapmaking got under way. It's true that -- assuming they ever really wanted to -- they can't change the system now, but they could at least recover some of their dignity if they got busy pushing for long-term change and engaging Republicans in the effort.
Now, there's something that would be a surprise, to be sure. But it would be one to welcome -- not just because it could restore a little faith in our government but even more because it could make that government better.