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Wonk Alert: The Potential Face of State Re-Districting, Or "How IL Dems Will Stay Safe In Congress"

By Karl Klockars in News on Apr 5, 2011 6:00PM

2011_04_05illinoisredistricting.jpg During every Presidential race, the ridiculously important topic of "Who gets to choose Supreme Court Justices" plays a ridiculously minor part in the voters' decision making process. Similarly, in the most recent statewide elections, the topic that could be the decade's most important political decision is one that got equally little discussion during the last election cycle: redistricting. Map-making. Redrawing. "Gerrymandering."

Illinois lost a seat in the House of Representatives based on the recent census results, and as such the state legislature has to sit down and hack out what the map will look like the next time we go to the polls. That process will be run by House Leader Mike Madigan, who will likely do exactly what State Senator Bill Brady told the Pantagraph he'd do and "shove this right down our throat."

Over at Swing State Project, user "silver spring" crunched a crazy amount of data and put together the above map, which shows just how crazy the districts could potentially look when redistricting is said and done. Calling it the "14-4" map (for the 14 Dem districts and 4 GOP districts), "silver spring" built the map on these criteria:

1.) Keep all 3 black seats intact; not easy considering hundreds of thousands of blacks have left Chicago over the last decade.

2.) Create two Hispanic seats -- ones that would be guaranteed to elect Hispanic representatives.

3.) Keep all currently Democratic-held seats at very high Democratic levels (this includes the minority-majority seats, of course, as well as IL-3, IL-5, IL-9, and IL-12).

4.) Create seats where the incumbent Democrat would keep as much of his or her current constituents as possible.

5.) Create a map whereby there are only 4 Republican seats, the newly created Democratic seats must be at relatively high Democratic levels - ideally around 65% Obama or higher in the Chicago area and around 60% Obama or higher in downstate and/or 5 points more Democratic than the existing seat.

6.) As a finishing touch, create a map whereby Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger will basically not have a seat to run in.

In a state Democrat's perfect world, the districts where Tea Party faves Joe Walsh squeaked out a victory over Melissa Bean (the 8th) and Bobby Schilling beat out Phil Hare (17th), would also be remapped to "de-Tea" each area, a luxury few states can claim after 2010. Schock is likely to have the biggest target on his back, though, as taking out a Congressional "rising star" could have national repercussions.

This is indeed the highest political form of spitballing, and of course there are no guarantees that the map will look anything like this after all the shouting is over - in fact, one commenter calls it a map akin to "Tom Delay on steroids." The details continue beyond just the graphics on Swing State (but go to the closeups and check out how crazy the 10th District looks), and are worth reading for anyone interested in just how hair-splittingly tight these decisions are, and how high the stakes can go.