Two lawsuits filed over Democrats’ gerrymandered legislative districts in Illinois

Minding the Illinois political maze for decades.

By John Ruberry

Since posting my Illinois gerrymandering entry here last week there is an update.

First some background: Despite multiple promises to veto a partisan remap of Illinois state legislative districts, Democratic governor JB Pritzker signed into law new hyper-partisan new state House and Senate districts, claiming that these new maps preserve diversity.

Not so fast, JB.

Late Thursday the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, on behalf of five Hispanic voters, filed suit in federal court claiming that the new maps are “malapportioned.” AP sums up the controversey beautifully. “But the challenge from MALDEF,” the wire service says, “expands the source of objections to the very groups whose voting rights Democrats say they are protecting.”

Earlier last week the Illinois Republican Party also filed a federal lawsuit that claims that the new maps violate the 14th Amendment to the US Contsitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Indeed it may. Illinois’ constitution states that new General Assembly district maps must be drawn by legislators by the end of June after each decennial census. If not, the process moves to an eight-person committee evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. If that panel can’t come to a decision then two names are placed in a hat, one Republican and one Democrat. Lovers of political theater will be thrilled to learn that the four times the remapping committee was formed, three times times no decision was reached and the tiebreaker clause was invoked. In 2000 a stovepipe hat said to have been worn by Abraham Lincoln was used for the tiebreaking ceremony.

The complete Census figures won’t be available until August. But it’s clear that the Democrats didn’t want the redistricting process to be left by chance, or worse, given to Republicans. So the Dems, rather than work with hard numbers, instead used population estimates from the American Community Survey.

This weekend on Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up, host Mike Flannery ventured into what-aboutism expressed by the left regarding gerrymandering in Republican states. During an interview with state Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield).  Flannery phrased their argument this way, “That the Democrats here stopped short of annihilating as many Republicans as they could in the General Assembly–do you buy that?” Butler responded that he does not and he explained to Flannery, “We have 14 members–Republican members of the House–that were drawn in districts together and we have zero Democrats that were drawn into districts together.” That’s an observation the Wall Street Journal made earlier this month. Because of Democratic gerrymandering after the 2010 census, there are currenly only 45 Republicans among the 118 members in the Illinois House. 

While of course there are no state or federal legal protections to protect GOP state legislators, as I mentioned earlier in this post and last week, Pritzker promised he would veto a partisan remap.

There is a better way. Twice in the 2010s enough signatures were collected to put an amendment to the Illinois Constitution on the general election ballot that would take redistricting out of the hands of legislators and placing a non-partisan committee in control. Twice a lawyer closely tied to Boss Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the longtime Illinois House speaker who was forced out of power early this year, sued to block having Illinois voters decide the issue. In a party-line vote, the Illinois Supreme Court sided with the Democrats both times.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Whenever a liberal complains to you about gerrymandering, your reply needs to be, “What about Illinois?”

By John Ruberry

A month ago I wrote about Illinois General Assembly Democrats, behind closed doors, redrawing legislative maps. The Dems, thanks to their gerrymandering after the 2010 Census, already enjoy supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

There was hope, a quite naive one to be sure, that because Illinois’ Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, firmly promised, many times, that he would veto any partisan remap proposal, that fair maps could eventually emerge.

Shortly before Election Day in 2018, again as I noted last month, Pritzker had this to say to an NRP reporter, “I will not sign a bill that is gerrymandered, I have been for independent maps for a long time now.”

Well Pritzker isn’t for independent maps anymore even though, as the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) reported just two weeks ago, the Chicago billionaire promised to veto “an unfair map.”

Pritzker lied. On Friday he signed into law a hyperpartisan gerrymandered map. And going a step further, for the first time in five decades Illinois’ Supreme Court districts were redrawn. Do I have to tell you which party the new court districts will favor?

From the Wall Street Journal editorial board:

Illinois Democrats hold a statehouse supermajority, every statewide office and a state Supreme Court majority. That sounds like a monopoly on power. But with voters starting to revolt against the state’s fiscal woes and political corruption, Democrats are now working to further entrench their power.

Late last week Democrats jammed through new state legislative maps that combine 14 Republicans in the Illinois House into seven districts. That means seven GOP incumbents are guaranteed to lose in party primaries. Republicans will also lose their incumbent advantage in seven districts. No Democrats were combined in the same House districts.

Illinois’s maps were already heavily gerrymandered to favor Democrats, who control 73 of the 118 seats in the House and 41 of 59 in the Senate. But Democrats are worried a GOP wave in the 2022 midterm elections could defeat Gov. J.B. Pritzker. They want to shore up their supermajority to ensure they can override a new Republican Governor.

Apologists for the Democrats explain that according to the state constitution the General Assembly needs to have new legislative districts approved by June 30. What they leave out is that if no map is passed, again according to the state constitution, an eight-person bipartisan committee is appointed to redraw maps. Republicans would likely end up in a stronger position in such a scenario because don’t believe it’s possible to create an even more unfair map.

What’s worse about these new legislative districts is because of the COVID-19 epidemic, not all of the US Census numbers have been released. Illinois Democrats based their new state House and Senate districts on projections from American Community Survey, not hard numbers. 

When confronted about gerrymandering by Fox Chicago’s Mike Flannery on this weekend’s Flannery Fired Up, Boss Michael Madigan’s slippery successor as state House Speaker, Chris Welch, explained to the host that Oklahoma, a red state, also based their remapping on ACS data. 

True–only that Welch neglected to mention that Oklahoma is committed to redraw its maps once the final Census numbers are in.

Illinois, because of population loss, will have one less congressional seat after the 2022 midterm elections. Federal guidelines on congressional districts are quite strict–so the new congressional maps have not been released as the Illinois Democrats await those hard numbers to crunch and torture. But speculation is that these maps will also punish the GOP. 

One-party Democratic rule has destroyed Illinois. I’ve noted these facts many times at Da Tech Guy. Illinois’ public-worker pension plans are among the worst-funded in the nation. The average percentage in state budgets dedicated to pensions is four percent. In Illinois, because its promises to these liberal public-sector unions were not properly funded, it is 25 percent. The state’s repupation for corruption is well known–in my lifetime four governors, three Democrats and one Republican, have served time in federal prison. Federal authorites have been investigating the inner circle of Boss Madigan for several years. And for the first time in history Illinois lost population between Censuses. 

Every state will be redrawing their maps. Former president Barack Obama and his first attorney general, Eric Holder founded a group, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, that opposes Republican gerrymandering. Look for the two of them to holler and scream when they declare new red state remaps to be unfair. Of course Obama and Holder will be mum on gerrymandering in blue states, such as what occurs every ten years in Obama’s home state. 

What do you do if a liberal moans to you about those red state district maps that they say are gerrymandered? I have a three word reply for you. 

“What about Illinois?”

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

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Obama and Pritzker exposed as frauds on gerrymandering in Illinois

By John Ruberry

Last year former president Barack Obama called partisan gerrymandering “a sneaky way for politicians to consolidate as much power as they can. In the end, gerrymandering means that citizens’ voices are being diminished.” 

A year earlier the governor of Obama’s home state of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, had this to say after the US Supreme Court decided not to get involved in partistan remaps. “As I’ve said since I was a candidate, I will veto any map that is unfair,” Pritzker said. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re going to have to make sure that here in Illinois we’re not gerrymandering, that we’re drawing maps that are fair and competitive. That’s what’s best for the voters of the state, that they have choices when they go to the ballot.” 

Obama and Pritzker are of course both Democrats. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, state Senate minority leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), pointed out that Obama, while at Illinois’ state capital late in his presidential term, denounced gerrymandering and called for reform. “And this needs to be done across the nation,” the 44th president said, “not just in a select few states. It should be done everywhere.”

Apparently not in Illinois becauses Obama has been silent about stacking the decks in favor of Democrats. The 2010 remap of Illinois congressional and state legislative districts was a travesty of democracy, as was the one after the 2000 Census, both of which were the work of longtime Illinois House speaker and Democratic party chairman Boss Michael Madigan, who was forced into retirement this year as scandals engulfed his inner circle. The state legislature, as mandated by the Illinois constitution, draws new General Assembly and US congressional district maps.

Late last month Pritzker appeared to be backtracking from his stance against gerrymandering.

The most blatant gerrymandering from the most recent remap is Illinois’ 4th congressional district, nicknamed “the earmuffs,” which is pictured above. 

But a quick look at maps won’t tell the whole story. Illinois three largest cities outside of Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, and Springfield, the aforementioned state capital, are each split between two congressional districts. This is not a case of these cities being too large for one district, the average size of a US congressional district is over 700,000, the largest of these municipalities is Rockford, with just under 150,000 residents. 

The current Illinois congressional delegation consists of thirteen Democrats and five Republicans. Mission accomplished, Democrats. That number will change because Illinois, again, will lose a congressional seat. As I’ve remarked before, Illinoisans are voting with their feet by moving out. They are fed up with rampant corruption, high taxes, and an unfunded public worker pension debt crisis that can be solved only by default or hyperinflation. Between the 2010 and 2020 Census counts Illinois lost population–the first time that has ever happened to the Prairie State.

The electoral results are predictable when politicians choose their constituents. Last year 52 of the 118 races for seats in the Illinois House had only one candidate. In the state Senate it was worse–10 of the 20 races had only one person running. The Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. 

Twice in the prior decade Republicans led efforts to allow voters to decide to amend the state constitution by having a non-partisan committee draw maps instead of the legislature. Both times what was called the Fair Map Amendment was ruled unconstitutional in a party-line state Supreme Court decision. The lead attorney in the lawsuit to block the amendment had ties to Boss Madigan.

Back to the US Congress. Illinois’ Democratic delegation is lockstep behind House Bill 1, which if made into law, in the process of nationalizing local elections, will mandate independent committees, not state legislators, to take charge of the decennial remaps in all 50 states. But why aren’t Illinois 13 Democratic members of Congress decrying the current remap process here? Because they are phonies, that’s why. Just like Pritzker and Obama. 

The current remapping in Illinois is being performed behind closed doors by Democratic members of the General Assembly using preliminary Census data. Hey Pritzker! Are you aware of this news?

Yeah, I know, in 1990 Republicans drew gerrymandered districts. It was wrong then too.

On Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up this weekend, state Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) told the host, “We should draw fair, straightforward maps that use official [Census] data and give the people of Illinois a real choice in their elections so people are picking their elected officials and not the other way around.”

Tellingly, because Flannery strives to be fair, he had two Republicans on the gerrymandering segment of his program, but no Dems. I’m very confident that Flannery invited a Democrat to appear but they are either too ashamed to defend their non-transparent remapping–or they know it’s indefensible.

One more time for emphasis.

Six days before his election as governor a St. Louis NPR reporter, Jason Rosenbaum, asked Pritzker, “If you’re governor and they send you a map that is obvioulsy gerrymandered against Republicans would you veto it and why?”

Candidate Pritzker’s response? “I will not sign a bill that is gerrymandered,” adding, “I have been for independent maps for a long time.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

The end of Boss Madigan, the man who destroyed Illinois

Madigan graphic courtesy of the Illinois Policy Institute

By John Ruberry

Had this event not occurred on the same day President Donald J. Trump was impeached a second time, the failure of Michael Madigan to win a 19th term as speaker of the Illinois House would have made national news. The luck of the Irish was somehow with him on his worst day in his 52 years in politics.

There is much to criticize with Madigan. While the one sentence summary of the Chicago Democrat’s career might be “Longest statehouse speaker tenure in American history,” it instead needs to be, “The man who destroyed Illinois.”

Here’s a graph created by the Illinois Policy Institute–which has been on the forefront of exposing Madigan to the masses for a decade–that shows the decline of Illinois’ credit rating. And the rating began its descent early in Madigan’s tenure as speaker. To be fair, it was Gov. Jim Thompson, a Republican, who in 1989 signed into law the annual compounded three-percent cost-of-living public pension raise for retired state employees, but that bill emerged from Madigan’s House. Nearly all state workers are members of public-sector unions, those unions have been an important cog for the Madigan Machine. Other GOP governors share some of the blame for the Illinois pension bomb. But for all but two years since 1983, Madigan was speaker and he had his hands on every budget since then. 

Illlinois’ credit rating now hovers slightly over junk status.

The Prairie State has lost population for seven straight years. People have wised up. After the 2020 reapportionment Illinois will once again lose a congressional district. Perhaps two.

Madigan’s political mentor was the first Mayor Daley, Richard J, the legendary boss of Chicago. Madigan was America’s last machine boss. As mayor Daley was also chairman of Cook County Democratic Party, since 1998 Madigan has been chairman of state party, a post that he, at least for now, retains. Like Daley, Madigan would reward his political supporters and their relatives with jobs, usually public-sector jobs. But recent scandals involving private-sector entities, including the Chicago area’s electrical utility, Commonwealth Edison, betrayed the burden of the pension bomb that is eating away at Illinois government. Allegedly ComEd was handing out jobs, as lowly as meter readers, to Madigan loyalists. The ComEd scandal has produced several indictments, including the company’s former CEO and some Madigan loyalists. A separate scandal centered around red-light cameras has bagged other Madigan cronies. These political brushfires, on top of allegations of sexual harrassment against a member of Madigan’s inner circle, finally made the Madigan name toxic. 

The result in 2020 was better-than expected results for the anemic Illinois Republican Party. Best of all, the so-called Fair Tax Amendment, would have replaced Illinois’ flat income tax with a graduated one, was resoundingly defeated. A majority of Illinoisans finally ascertained, as I quipped at the time, that if Illinois was given an unlimited budget, politicians here would still exceed it. 

Another sin against democracy committed by Madigan is gerrymandered legislative districts, unintended artwork that would make Jackson Pollock or Pablo Picasso proud. “The state’s legislative map looks like a Rorschach test on steroids,” Robert Reed wrote in 2019 for Chicago Magazine, “with districts of all squiggly sizes and shapes.” With a few exceptions, such as university towns, Republicans dominate downstate Illinois in gubernatorial and presidential races, but there are still plenty of central and Illinois Democratic members of the General Assembly. That is the power of Madigan’s gerrymandering. It also discourages challengers to the status quo; according to the Center Square, last year 44 percent of Illinois legislative races were uncontested. Why run? Because in most districts in Illinois the politicians choose their voters, not the other way around.

Illinoisans would have been better served if there was not a Madigan monoculture in power for years in Springfield.

Groups such as the Better Government Association of Illinois and the League of Women Voters have long called for a Fair Map Amendement, taking away the power of decennial legislative remapping away from the General Assembly and putting a non-partisan panel in charge of the task instead. Twice in the prior decade hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected to put such an amendment on the ballot for voters to decide the issue, twice a lawyer with ties to Madigan successfully sued to keep it off. Last year, for the first time ever, a state Supreme Court justice, Democrat Thomas Kilbride, who represented a downstate district, failed to win retention. His vote against the Fair Map Amendment was one of the issues that galvanized opposition from voters.

Illinois’ Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, finally the state’s most powerful politician now that Madigan is no longer speaker, has vowed only to sign only a fair map into law. 

Don’t hold your breath on that one.

Madigan’s successor is Chris Welch, a suburban Chicagoan who was once a member of the Madigan Machine. He’ll be the Land of Lincoln’s first black speaker. But there is already a cloud over him. In 2002 he allegedly slammed the head of his girfriend repeatedly on to a kitchen countertop. Eight years later another woman claimed that she lost her job at a high school because Welch, then a school board president, broke up with her. 

Still there is reason to have at least a glimmer for hope in Illinois. But barring a change in federal law that would allow states to declare bankruptcy, Illinois will remain in its financial sewer for many years. A different amendment to the Illinois constitution, one that will allow pension reform and remove the pension guarantee clause, is desperetely needed. 

John Ruberry regularly blogs in Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

Illinois Democrats may finally eject Boss Madigan

By John Ruberry

I can’t track down the exact quote from Hunter S. Thompson about the end of Richard M. Nixon’s presidency, but the self-described gonzo journalist viewed it something along the lines of a football cheap-shot artist got felled by his own weapon, the dirty hit. Not that Thompson, a huge football fan like Nixon, favored dirty hits, but he delighted in his mental image of Nixon helplessly departing public life, like an NFL goon being wheeled off the playing field in a stretcher, never to return. 

We may be nearing that ignominious point with Boss Michael Madigan of Chicago. 

Good.

A refresher for those of you who are not from Illinois. For all but two years Madigan, 78, has been speaker of the Illinois state house since 1983, a national record for state legislative leadership. He’s been chairman of the state Democratic Party since 1998. Madigan has been a Chicago Democrat ward committeman since 1969. He’s been a member of the Illinois General Assembly since 1971. Hey, Madigan even managed, at great effort, to get his daughter, Lisa, elected Illinois attorney general in 2002. She was reelected three times.

Fox Chicago’s longtime political reporter, Mike Flannery, gained the scorn of other reporters when he half-jokingly asked Madigan, in one of his rare press conferences, if Illinois politicans should be limited to half a century in public office. The Boss abruptly ended the presser.

Madigan is America’s last political machine boss. And Madigan is, as I’ve noted before, the Pablo Picasso of gerrymanderers. Madigan’s maps aren’t pretty, but they achieve his goal, electing as many Democrats to Congress and the General Assembly who are beholden to the Boss as possible. Yep, beholden to Madigan–not the Democrat Party. Unloyal Democrats, in the manner of that classic Twilight Zone episode, find themselves drawn by Madigan into the empty political cornfield if they cross the Boss.

Federal investigators, led by US District Attorney John R. Lausch, have been chipping away at the Madigan machine for the last three years. I wrote about that here, here, and here. Last month the feds indicted lobbyist, former state representative, and close Madigan confidante Michael McClain on bribery and other charges. One of McClain’s biggest clients was Commonwealth Edison, the Exelon-owned electrical utility. It’s alleged that Madigan, who has not been charged and vows he is not involved in any criminal acttivity, used the utility, in exchange for legislation favorable to ComEd, to hand out jobs to members of his political organization. Also indicted for were some former top ComEd officers, including its onetime CEO. 

The cheap shot, in Madigan’s opinion, that leads to criminal charges, may still come, if someone rats the Boss of Illinois out. But Madigan, who reportedly doesn’t use a cell phone or email, will be a tough old tree to fell. Besides, he has a lot of money in his political warchest and his still has many friends, particularly among minority politicians, who of course enjoy being funnels for jobs for their cronies and constituents.

Still, according to multiple media reports there currently are enough votes in the state House to deny Madigan another term as speaker. The Blue Wave predicted by political prognostictors also was non-existant in Illinois, the weak state GOP managed to pick up a seat in the House. Worse for Democrats, the so-called Fair Tax Amendment, that would replace Illinois’ flat-rate income tax with graduated ones, was resoundingly defeated by voters. Corruption reports surrounding Madigan’s inner circle have been seen by political scribes as among the reasons the Fair Tax Amendment failed. Madigan has been a very poor steward of public monies–more on that in a bit. 

If Madigan loses the speakership he won’t be able to hold on to his party chairmanship for long. He needs both offices to remain on the balance bar. Madigan’s political idol, the first Richard Daley, who was mayor of Chicago and chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. His yin needed the yang. Sadly, Madigan doesn’t have the public-finance chops of Boss Daley.

To use a football analogy again, the score in the game is 7-0 with Madigan trailing, but we’re early in the first quarter. Illinois has never, at least in my opinion, fully recovered from the Great Recession. The lockdowns of the state’s second-most powerful politician, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have caused great damage to the Illinois ecomony. So have the two rounds of riots and looting in Chicago this year. Jobs are hard to come by here–and my guess is that Madigan still has some to hand out to the right friends. Don’t count him out.

Oh yeah, what about the money? Madigan has been at the table that drafted every Illinois budget since 1983, and probably earlier. And it was during that time that the fuse of Illinois’ public-pension bomb was lit. The phony Madigan budgets keep kicking the can down the round as Illinois’ severely underfunded public worker public pension plans continue to eat away at state prosperity. Illinois has had a backlog of billions in unpaid bills for more than a decade. The state hasn’t had a balanced budget–despite our constitution requiring one–since 2002. Coincidentally that was the last year there was a Republican majority in the state Senate. 

If only because of his fiscal malfeasance, Madigan needs to go. 

Speaking of going, many Illinoisans are doing just that. The Prairie State, as I’ve noted here at Da Tech Guy many times, has been losing residents since 2014.

Eject Madigan now.

John Ruberry, a Commonwealth Edison customer, reguarly blogs from the Chicago area at Marathon Pundit.