Why remap Illinois when the redrawn map is even worse?
By Sheldon H. Jacobson
The Illinois remapping committee posted a blatantly gerrymandered Illinois congressional map on Oct. 15. Our research group scored the map across multiple fairness metrics and found all but one clearly indicating gerrymandering.
Even without such analytics, the eye test revealed extreme gerrymandering, with downstate districts drawn to snake around urban areas, effectively separating urban and rural voters. The map also marginalized Chicago suburb voters by cracking their votes using Cook County to dilute their influence.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project concurred with our assessment, giving Illinois' congressional map a grade of F.
The problem appears to be that those who are drawing maps are indifferent to how their work is graded. That is why it is surprising that they bothered to create a second map.
Unfortunately, the new map, released on Oct. 28, did little to improve the situation for Illinois voters. In fact, the new map is more gerrymandered than the first.
Comparing the fairness analytics for the Oct. 15 map and the Oct. 28 map, not much changed to serve all the citizens of Illinois. The new map's total perimeter length for the 17 districts actually increased, making it even less compact. The new map did add a fifth majority-minority district, which may explain the added perimeter length.
The efficiency gap, a measure for the balance of wasted votes between the two parties, continues to be heavily weighted in favor of Democrats. Seven districts are moderately competitive, compared to eight in the previous map, with all leaning Democrat. These seven competitive districts are also now more stable wins for Democrat candidates.
To illustrate how poorly the new map serves the people of Illinois, District 2 now mixes several South Side Chicago communities in the north with Danville and other East Central rural downstate communities. How can a representative of such a district, now classified as majority-minority, serve such a diverse set of constituents?
What the new map does is ignore and dismiss the interests of the citizens of Illinois, breaking up communities of interest throughout the state.
Given that Illinois is a 59%-41% Democrat-Republican state, no one expected there to be a Republican majority of House seats won, nor should there be. However, maps drawn with such an extreme motive are divisive and destroy much-needed bridges during these challenging times.
The new Illinois gerrymandered congressional map weakens the fiber of democracy in the Land of Lincoln.
If gerrymandering is to be accepted in Illinois, then why not create a map that would give the Democrats 15 seats? It is possible, and the votes are available to enact it into law, so why not do it?
The map analytics reveal what voters will receive and what the outcomes are likely to be.
When the people who are empowered to serve the needs of the state create highly biased, gerrymandered maps, how can they be trusted? They are placing their personal needs and wishes above the citizens of the state, the very people who elected them, and who they are responsible to serve.
This biased mapping process clearly demonstrates that Illinois needs an independent redistricting commission that would take the politics out of the mapping process, and place it where it belongs, with the people of Illinois.
Illinois deserves better. The mapping analytics say it all.
• Sheldon H. Jacobson, Ph.D., is a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research group on computational redistricting is committed to bringing transparency to the redistricting process using optimization algorithms and artificial intelligence.