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.
Two weeks ago, Mr Pritzker reaffirmed his campaign pledge to veto “an unfair map”—read his lips. We hope he keeps his promise. In any case, the gerrymander is certain to be challenged in court because Illinois Democrats redrew the legislative maps based on Census Bureau population estimates, rather than granular data from the 2020 count. Data from the 2020 count won’t be available until late this summer due to pandemic delays.
The Legislature, however, has a state Constitutional deadline to redraw the statehouse maps by June 30. Missing the deadline would tee up a bipartisan commission to draw the maps and then a “tiebreaker” if the commission deadlocks. As the Illinois Policy Institute explains, the “Illinois Supreme Court would submit the name of one Republican and one Democrat, and the Secretary of State randomly draws one of those names, giving the winning side free rein to draw maps in their favor.” Democrats prefer their odds in court.
Democrats have long controlled the state Supreme Court because three of seven Justices are elected exclusively from Cook County that includes Chicago. The other four hail from Chicago’s suburban counties and downstate areas. The Democratic court majority has blocked tort, pension and redistricting reforms, among other challenges to public-union and trial-lawyer domination.
But the Democratic chokehold is easing. A Democratic Justice last November was ousted in a retention election for the first time in state history after he was tied to ex-House Speaker
who resigned earlier this year amid a corruption probe that has already ensnared his allies. To retain their 4-3 majority, Democrats need to win one of two partisan elections in November 2022. Both districts are trending Republican.
The Democratic response has been to redraw state Supreme Court districts for the first time in 60 years. According to research outfit Wirepoints, Democrats added left-leaning DuPage County and sliced off 15 Republican-leaning counties from the court’s Third District, which they lost in last year’s retention election.
All of this shows how absolute one-party rule continues to corrupt absolutely. Mr. Madigan is gone, but his political machine lives on.
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Appeared in the June 4, 2021, print edition.