Tag Archives: Illinois

Illinois Democrats
Alter Congressional Map

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 27, 2021 — A legal setback in court at the end of last week over the Illinois state legislative maps has apparently been part of the reason the Democratic leadership issued a new congressional map this Monday. The changes are very significant leading to three sets of incumbent pairings.

The overall partisan goal of creating a 14D-3R map from the current 13D-5R map looks on paper to be achieved, at least using the 2020 presidential race as a benchmark. The statisticians at Dave’s Redistricting App released their quick calculations to support the partisan division, but in previous data sets we saw the underlying races trending more Republican in some districts than the presidential race alone would have suggested.

Under this supposition, thinking the underlying races may show greater Republican strength when they are fully calculated, the new Illinois map may be a bit more competitive than meets the eye.

The big change is the creation of a second Hispanic plurality open seat in Chicago. The Mexican American Legal Defense Foundation was preparing to file suit on the first plan charging that, among other points and for the second time in two decades, the legislature bypassed the opportunity of drawing a second Hispanic seat in the city even though the numbers were clearly supporting such an addition. The various pressure points caused the leadership to draw a new map containing the second Hispanic district.

This draw causes a Democratic incumbent pairing in Chicago. Freshman Rep. Marie Newman (D-La Grange), who defeated former Rep. Dan Lipinski in the 2020 Democratic primary, would be placed in the same district as second-term Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove). Originally, Rep. Newman was paired with GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) in a general election battle that would have favored her.

This new 6th District is one of the seats that could play a bit more competitive than the 55-43 percent Biden-Trump result last November yields. Certainly, the pairing winner, and Rep. Casten is at least considered the early favorite, would have a big advantage in the general election. A strong Republican candidate and a wave GOP election could make even the general election in this district interesting.

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Illinois Redistricting Map Released

By Jim Ellis

The new Illinois redistricting plan, featuring 17 new districts that twist, turn, and meander throughout the state.

Oct. 19, 2021 — It had been speculated that the Illinois Democrats were attempting to draw a new congressional map to reduce the state’s Republican contingent from five members to three. The new plan, featuring 17 new districts that twist, turn, and meander throughout the state, appears to accomplish their goal.

Democratic leaders from the House and Senate Redistricting committees defend their actions, saying the plan is “designed to comply with federal law and ensure the broad diversity of the state is reflected in the elected officials sent to represent Illinois in Washington, D.C.” The map must still clear both houses of the Illinois legislature and obtain Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) signature before becoming law but with Democrats holding big partisan majorities, enactment seems certain.

Republicans and even some analytical observers say the map is a blatant partisan gerrymander designed to net the Democrats three seats nationally. Under this plan, 14 at least “lean Democratic” districts are created opposite three Republicans. The current map stands at 13D-5R, but Illinois loses a congressional seat in reapportionment.

Therefore, if the map performs as designed, the Republicans will be down a net three seats nationally because the Democrats would convert two GOP districts while the latter party absorbs the loss of the 18th seat that went to another state.

A potential legal problem, in addition to a political gerrymandering lawsuit, is the lack of drawing a second Hispanic seat in Chicago, and the Mexican American Legal Defense Foundation (MALDEF) is reportedly poised to file suit. As was the case in the last decade, the demographic numbers appear high enough for Hispanics to have two seats within Chicago. Such a second seat was not drawn in 2011, and it is again not created on this map, but the black majority seats are reinforced.

One of the re-draw’s top targets is Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon). His current 16th District is divided into several parts in an effort to sustain the marginal Democratic district that Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) is relinquishing in western Illinois, and help strengthen Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D-Naperville) district in the Chicago metro area. Under the current map, Underwood won a second term with just a 51-49 percent margin.

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Maps to the Max

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13, 2021 — We’re beginning to see preliminary congressional redistricting plans appear around the country, and it seems both parties are attempting to draw maps to their maximum political advantage where possible.

We’ve seen the Democrats attempt to draw a 5D-1R map in Oregon. It appears on the surface that they may have succeeded, but at the very least, Rep. Kurt Schrader’s (D-Canby/Salem) 5th District looks to be highly competitive in the general election, so such a party division outcome is not yet a given.

Speculation coming from New York, Illinois, and New Mexico, suggest the Democrats will attempt to stretch their advantage in those states, the only ones they fully control for redistricting, to a risky maximum. Sources in New York indicate the Democratic leadership is attempting to craft a map that would convert five of the Republicans’ current eight seats in the state delegation to the Democrats.

In Illinois, the potential plan suggests the Democratic leadership will attempt to take the Republicans down to just three seats in the delegation from their current five. Illinois lost a seat in reapportionment, meaning the Land of Lincoln delegation will return to Washington with 17 instead of 18 members.

In New Mexico, plans have surfaced to attempt to draw the state’s lone Republican 2nd District into the Democratic column. This requires bringing the 2nd into the Albuquerque metro area for the first time since becoming a three-seat state.

While the aforementioned draws are possible, doing so could create enough politically marginal districts that the plans backfire at least to a degree.

Republicans look to be retaliating in the states that they control outright, meaning places that have not created a redistricting commission or where they don’t already control the maximum number of seats.

The first North Carolina plan was just released, and if passed, the Republicans could net three seats, gaining two when compared to the current plan, while the Democrats lose one. North Carolina is another of the states that is gaining a congressional district from national reapportionment.

The proposed map looks to make major changes and takes advantage of Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) leaving the delegation to run statewide for the Senate. This allows the GOP to effectively draw two new seats instead of one. Though the Democrats control the governorship in the person of Roy Cooper, under North Carolina law the state chief executive has no role in redistricting. Therefore, if maps pass both houses of the state legislature, they are enacted. Republicans have significant majorities in both the state House and Senate.

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The Trifecta States

By Jim Ellis

In the trifecta of political parties controlling the House, Senate and Executive branches in a state, how many will actually benefit from that power in the redistricting process?

Oct. 11, 2021 — As the redistricting cycle moves forward, predictions are being made as to which party will benefit most through the decennial district boundary drawing process. Most analyses favor the Republicans as the party best positioned to gain under 2021 redistricting largely because of the number of states they control outright, but this could be an over-statement.

When a state features one party in control of the governor’s mansion, state House, and state Senate, the horse racing term of “trifecta” is used to describe such a political situation. Since Republicans hold 23 trifectas and Democrats just 15, it appears on the surface that the GOP will be the big gainer in redistricting.

Let’s look a bit closer because the aggregate trifecta number doesn’t tell the whole story.

On the Republican side, though they control 23 states, their redistricting position is lessened when examining their ability to extract a net gain of congressional seats.

Of their 23, in one, West Virginia, they are a sure bet to lose a seat. In this case, Republicans hold all three of the state’s CDs, but reapportionment reduces the Mountain State to two districts. Therefore, Republicans will unavoidably absorb the loss.

In two of their states, Arizona and Montana, a non-politician commission will draw the maps. In another dozen (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) the GOP is already at the max level of partisan members and can’t stretch the new plan further.

In Iowa and Texas, though Republicans have trifecta control, legislative rules lessen their complete power; hence, the redistricting outcome is affected.

Finally, the GOP only has effective redistricting control in six states, and in two of those, Oklahoma and Tennessee, it could arguably backfire if the party tries to expand their ratio further. Therefore, it is in really just four states, Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Ohio where we could see Republican redistricting gains.

The Democrats find themselves in similar position. From their 15 trifectas, they only have redistricting control in five, possibly, and realistically, three states. In five of their 15 (California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington) redistricting goes to a citizens’ commission.

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The New Mexico Ploy

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2021 — During the last week reports were surfacing that suggested the New Mexico State Democratic leadership was considering ways to turn the current 2D-1R congressional map into a 3D-0R plan. This might be easier said than done, however.

New Mexico is one of the Democrats’ 15 “trifecta states,” meaning the party controls all three legs of the redistricting stool: the state Senate, state House, and governor’s mansion. Republicans have 23 trifectas. Therefore, if the Democrats are to minimize the redistricting damage, or even possibly come out slightly ahead, they must fully use their political leverage in the states they control.

Of the Democrats’ 15 trifectas, however, five of the states handle redistricting through a commission, and in another five the party already controls all the congressional seats. Therefore, if they are to make a national redistricting play they must take maximum advantage in Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. The lay of the land, however, makes it very difficult to expand their fortunes in Nevada and possibly Oregon, which is why trying to take an extra seat from New Mexico makes some sense from a national Democratic perspective.

New Mexico has three congressional seats, all of which a freshman represents. The 1st (Rep. Melanie Stansbury; D-Albuquerque) and 3rd Districts (Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez; D-Santa Fe) in the northern part of the state are safely Democratic.

The southern 2nd District (Rep. Yvette Herrell; R-Alamogordo), which encompasses almost all of the territory south of Albuquerque, has performed as a Republican seat at the congressional level in 19 of the last 21 elections. Democrats picked up the district in their recent wave election years (2006; 2018) with open seat victories, but the voters favored the Republican challenger in both successive elections. This, despite NM-2 being a majority Hispanic district: 53.7 percent of the overall population according to the previous census data.

Additionally, the current seats are not widely out of population balance. The 1st District needs to gain just 11,264 people, while the 2nd must shed 8,181 individuals, and the 3rd must relinquish 3,082 residents. Therefore, a radical re-draw that results in a sweep of the three districts for one party when the population swings are so small would certainly draw a political gerrymandering lawsuit upon adoption of the new map. Whether such a lawsuit would succeed of course is a question that can only be answered when the final map is drawn and enacted.

Likely, the only way to draw a 3D-0R map in New Mexico would be to keep the northern 3rd District Democratic seat virtually intact, and then draw the Republican 2nd into Albuquerque. This would cause the city and Bernalillo County to be split resulting in the 1st and 2nd then appearing as southwestern and southeastern seats that divide Albuquerque, and subsequently stretch all the way to the Mexican border.

Even this draw might make it difficult to create three Democratic seats because the southeastern district would still have the potential of being Republican enough to make the party’s candidate, in this case Rep. Herrell, strong enough to have a chance of winning a general election.

New Mexico is a good example as how a largely internal state exercise can transform itself to help achieve a national partisan goal. It remains to be seen just how bold the New Mexico Democrats will be, as this small and sometimes obscure state steps into the national redistricting limelight.