Geenius at Wrok Attempts to Redistrict Illinois

So, on the one hand, I love fairness and justice and support the Voting Rights Act.

On the other hand, I hate stupid gerrymandering and the jiggering of districts to try to make them “safe.” For either party. (I mean, really, it’s fun to pretend to be Tom DeLay for a while . . . but only on Halloween.)

So I decided to use Dave’s Redistricting App to try my hand at redistricting Illinois. Fo’ realz. As in, I wanted to create a map that (a) could actually be adopted, (b) wouldn’t make an outsider gape in horror and (c) within those parameters, does all the things a good liberal would like it to do. Unlike other posters here, I’m not trying to optimize for Democratic interests — I’m trying to optimize for the interests of everyone in the state. A state that happens to contain a lot of Democrats.

One problem, though, is that I don’t know where to find the district-by-district voting data that would tell me which of my districts are solid Democratic, solid Republican or leaners. I can make educated guesses, but I don’t know for sure. This is one of the things I’m hoping you folks will help me with.


Methodology and more maps below the jump.

I began my mapmaking process without reference to existing districts. Outside Chicagoland, I formed districts around Census-recognized metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. For instance, in my map, IL-15 began as the Peoria MSA. As I saw where districts were forming, and knowing how many districts I ultimately had to create, I made the Springfield MSA part of IL-15 as well, then joined them by adding the counties in between. To my mind, metropolitan areas are “communities of interest,” and stunts like splitting Bloomington in half to dilute its vote burn my ass. (That being said, a large enough city may certainly contain more than one community of interest, but I’ll come to that later.)

Within Chicagoland, I started off with locally recognized super-communities: North Side, Northwest Side, West Side, etc. Because of the need to create majority-minority districts, I drew district lines along sharp ethnic boundaries (which in any case are inseparable from people’s notions of what neighborhoods belong to which “side”). None of these districts was large enough to be contained within the city, so I extended them outward into Cook County in ways that (I hoped) wouldn’t dilute their composition too much. Particularly in western Cook County, this took some jiggering.

As much as possible, I strove to keep these areas intact and my district boundaries in close conformity to county boundaries. Where I couldn’t go by counties, I tried to go by townships. I violated the convexity principle only where necessary to achieve population balance in a district, and I avoided “stringy” districts entirely. I can’t stand those things.

All districts deviate less than 1 percent from equal population share (712,813).

Enough talk. Maps!


Closeup on Chicagoland.


Central and southern Chicago.

IL-01 (South Side Chicago, Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn): 712,314, 62% black, 25% white, 10.3% Latino

IL-02 (Southwest Side Chicago, Burbank, Lemont): 712,295, 56.9% Latino, 31.4% white, 6% black

IL-03 (South Loop, West Side Chicago, Oak Park, La Grange, Burr Ridge, Argonne): 715,690, 41% white, 38.2% black, 14.1% Latino, 5.3% Asian

IL-01 was the easiest to draw. IL-02 was easy to draw in the city and inner suburbs, but became tricker the further out I had to go. Its shape comes in part from southward pressure from IL-03, which was a lot more difficult. The West Side has really emptied out in the last decade, and it was a challenge to include enough African American residents, even reaching out into the majority-black suburbs. I tried to make sure the district comprised the more progressive western suburbs.


Northern Chicago.

IL-04 (Northwest Side Chicago, Bensenville, Addison): 714,664, 49.6% white, 40.8% Latino, 5.4% Asian

IL-05 (North Side Chicago, North Shore): 715,394, 67.7% white, 10.8% Latino, 10.1% Asian, 9.3% black

I wish I could have stretched IL-04 all the way out to Elgin, but it wasn’t to be; any direction I try to expand it in just dilutes the Latino vote further. This seems to be as good as it gets. To compensate, it includes the Albany Park neighborhood, which is home to a large population of immigrants of various ethnicities, who presumably will share certain interests with the Latino community. IL-05 originally included Skokie and Lincolnwood, but then I decided to give those to IL-07 (to give the northwest suburban district more Democrats) and drown wealthy Wilmette, Kenilworth and Winnetka in a sea of lakefront liberals. Ha! (And you can’t say it’s not a community of interest, because if there’s one thing true North Shore residents agree on, it’s that if it’s inland, it’s not the North Shore! If cliquish identity protection doesn’t indicate a community of interest, what does?)


Northern Chicagoland.

IL-07 (Skokie, Northwest Cook): 716,103, 74.2% white, 13.2% Asian, 9.5% Latino

IL-08 (Lake): 710,303, 69.3% white, 16.8% Latino, 6.3% black, 6.2% Asian

IL-09 (McHenry, Elgin, Schaumburg): 710,672, 71.4% white, 16.8% Latino, 7.9% Asian

The northwest suburbs are clearly a community of interest and belong together, though I tried to give the sprawliest parts of Outer Sprawlville to IL-09. Lake County was so close to the necessary population size all by itself that it made sense to make it a single district, with just enough of McHenry County to finish the job.


DuPage County.

IL-10 (DuPage, Geneva-St. Charles): 713,223, 76.3% white, 9.9% Latino, 9.1% Asian

This district’s backbone is the Metra Union Pacific West Line (there’s a bright-line distinction in my mind between streetcar suburbia and sprawl suburbia). Naperville had to be cut out because otherwise the population would just be too darn big, and because I think Napervillians need to be cognizant of the fact that there wouldn’t be a Naperville without Aurora.


Western and Southern Chicagoland.

IL-06 (South Cook, University Park): 712,794, 52.2% black, 36.5% white, 8.9% Latino

IL-11 (Kane, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Oswego): 713,266, 66.5% white, 18% Latino, 7.3% Asian, 7.2% black

IL-12 (Will, Kankakee): 715,230, 77.6% white, 11.3% Latino, 8.2% black

Unfortunately, Orland Hills and Tinley Park are just too populous and too white to include them in IL-06, which is why I violate county borders here to exclude them and include University Park. IL-11 and IL-12 practically drew themselves once the other Chicagoland districts were in place — except for Grundy County, where IL-12 meets IL-14 and even stepping down to township boundaries made it hard to find the right balance. My apologies to Morris. Aurora and Naperville will have to find some way to live together in peace and harmony.


Northwest Illinois.

IL-13 (Rockford, DeKalb, Northwest Illinois): 710,857, 82.7% white, 8.3% Latino, 6.4% black

This is the district I reside in at the moment, and it gives me pleasure to take the McHenry County exurbs away from Don Manzullo. Tool.


Central Illinois.

IL-14 (Quad Cities, Ottawa/La Salle, Western Illinois): 713,441, 89.5% white

IL-15 (Peoria, Springfield, Central Illinois): 707,857, 87.9% white, 7.6% black

IL-16 (Champaign, Bloomington, Decatur, Eastern Illinois): 708,620, 82.8% white, 8.4% black

Eggheads unite! No more shall Champaign and Bloomington be kept apart! (And no more shall one side of Bloomington be kept apart from the other!) Peoria and Springfield grew together organically, and IL-14, which seemed to be too underpopulated no matter what I tried, just sort of seeped into what was left between the other districts I drew, which is how it ended up including so much of the I-80 corridor.


Southern Illinois.

IL-17 (St. Louis MSA): 711,447, 82.1% white, 13.6% black

IL-18 (Southern Illinois): 716,642, 91.6% white, 5% black

I do have some concern about whether East St. Louis will be outshouted by exurban Tea Partiers, but without any voting data to go by, I have no basis for splitting up the Illinois portion of the St. Louis MSA. The highest-numbered district, in my scheme as in the current one, gets everything that’s left.

OK, so . . . does my districting scheme fail to maximize Democratic votes? Absolutely, yes, if maximizing Democratic votes means doing what silver spring did. But I’m not looking to maximize Democratic votes per se, but rather to let that voice come out where it’s naturally strong. If I have any concern on this score, it’s whether the lines I’ve drawn have accidentally amplified the Republican voice. That I wouldn’t want to do. My goal is a map that’s fair to everyone, yet reflects the reality of a majority-Democratic state.

So here’s what I’m asking for:

– Analysis of the likely partisan leanings of each of my districts, since I don’t have the voter data and don’t know where to get it, but obviously many of you do. (Envy! Envy!)

– Observations of where I’ve accidentally undermined my own goals (for instance, if I’ve actually violated the VRA somewhere).

– Suggestions of how I might improve my map without turning it ugly (and I think you know what I mean by “ugly”). My ultimate goal is a map that can be submitted to the state redistricting committee as the serious product of a concerned and involved citizen. Which I’m pretty sure will fall on deaf ears, but I still intend to try.

– Whether there’s any sufficiently large (let’s say, > 70,000 residents) community of interest somewhere that’s so much at odds with the rest of its surroundings that it needs to be part of a different district, and whether there’s any appropriate district near enough to which it could feasibly be joined.

SSP Daily Digest: 4/7


RI-Sen: Dem Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse raised over $1 million in the first fundraising quarter, which in Rhode Island terms is a buttload. He now has $1.6 million in cash on hand, which hopefully will act as a nice deterrent to any Republican stupid enough to consider this race. You know I love concern trolling, but even I can’t work myself up to goad the GOP into this one.

TX-Sen: Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said he raised $1.1 million and threw in another $1.6 million of his own money. There are a ton of other GOP candidates, both actual and potential, in this race, so I expect this primary to be wildly expensive.


WV-Gov: Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who is seeking his current job on a more permanent basis, released an internal from the Global Strategy Group. It shows him at 36% and SoS Natalie Tennant at 22%, but the National Journal’s writeup doesn’t mention numbers for the other two or three legit Dems. The NJ also says than neither Tomblin nor Tennant have gone on the air, while Rick Thompson and John Perdue have, as we’ve mentioned previously.


IN-08: The man I like to call F.E.C. Kenobi (aka Greg Giroux) brings us yet another candidate filing. This time it’s Terry White, whom Greg describes as a “Dem lawyer/activist,” seeking to run against GOP frosh Larry Bucshon. I’m pretty sure this is him. Looks like he has a background in criminal law, so apparently not a wealthy plaintiff’s attorney (though he may be well-off).

Other Races:

IN-SoS: Today, a judge is expected to rule on whether a lawsuit challenging Republican Secretary of State Charlie White’s eligibility to serve in office can proceed. White, the guy supposed to be protecting the integrity of his state’s elections, is accused of fraudulently registering to vote.

LA-LG: Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser says he’s thinking about challenging fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne this fall. If you watched a lot of cable TV news last year during the BP oil spill, you probably saw Nungesser’s vocal complaints about the response to the crisis.


Washington: Vote-by-mail is now a legal requirement for all of Washington state. This isn’t a big deal, though, as Pierce County was the only jurisdiction which still conducted in-person voting – the rest of WA had long gone to all-mail. Notably, the legislation still allows for ballots to be postmarked on election day, which means the state will continue its frustrating tradition of seeing election results trickle in over a period of many days. (Neighboring Oregon, the other mail-only state, requires ballots to be postmarked arrive or be or turned in on election day.)

WATN?: Ex-Rep. Curt Weldon was always a sick, crazy piece of work, and we should all be thankful that Joe Sestak turned his sorry ass out of Congress. I honestly don’t think I would have ever cared enough about him to feature him in a Where Are They Now? item, except that he’s managed to show up in Libya, of all places, and has written an op-ed in the New York Times in which he calls for “engagement” with Moammar Gadhafi. Reminds me a bit of Tom DeLay saying “give peace a chance” when Slobodan Milosevic was massacring Kosovars, except I think Weldon really means it. Why do I say that? Well, hop into my time capsule and take a deep dive into the SSP archives. That amazing photo-within-a-photo shows Weldon pinning a medal on Gadhafi’s chest! Because the mastermind behind the Lockerbie bombing is exactly the sort of person an American elected official wants to be honoring. (I also encourage you to read that entire post just to see how twisted Weldon is.)

Redistricting Roundup:

Arkansas: Even though Dems control both houses of the state legislature (and the governor’s mansion), things are at an impasse. The state Senate rejected the House plan, dubbed the “Fayetteville Finger,” and adopted a different map of its own. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a very helpful page where you can mouse over each of the various proposals that are under consideration, including the new Senate map. Now some heads will have to be banged together to reach a compromise.

Delaware: Don’t laugh – mighty Delaware is starting up its redistricting process. Obviously this pertains only to the state lege, and lawmakers are accepting public comments and proposed plans through April 29th. So if you’ve worked something up in Dave’s App, email The lege’s ultimate deadline is in June.

Iowa: Leaders on both sides sound like they’re coming around to the new maps created by Iowa’s independent commission. The situation here reminds me of gym class in middle school. Our stereotypically sadistic teacher would ask us if we wanted to play, say, basketball – and we had to either accept the choice right there, or decide to risk taking door #2, with no chance of going back. The alternative could be dodgeball (yes!)… or it could be running laps. Faced with the possibility of doing suicide drills (that is to say, a much worse second map from the commission), Republicans and Democrats alike seem ready to play a little b-ball instead.

In any event, an advisory commission will issue recommendations on the maps by April 11th, after which the lege has three days to decide whether to accept them. If no, then the process starts all over again.

Illinois: An interesting article about an unusual tool that Dem Gov. Pat Quinn has in his arsenal, called the “amendatory veto.” It sounds like it’s a particularly fine-grained type of line-item veto, which could be used to make direct changes to any redistricting maps the legislature sends to the governor. Of course, Illinois is one of the few places where we’re large and in-charge, and it seems that Quinn has had a productive relationship with lawmakers so far, so it’s unlikely Quinn would have to use it.

Also, some SSP mapmakers have been getting love from around the Internets lately. Silver spring’s awe-inspiring map gets a nice shout-out from Chicagoist, and see our Oregon item below for another one.

Louisiana: Louisiana continues to be the most vexing state to follow. On Tuesday, the state Senate adopted a “horizontal” congressional map (full-size PDF here) that was, believe it or not, authored by a Dem. (Yes, Republicans supposedly have a majority, but the President, selected by the governor, is a Dem. This is endlessly confusing.) The Senate also rejected a plan preferred by Gov. Bobby Jindal, while the House in turn rejected the Senate’s map. Jindal threatened to veto any map that doesn’t maintain two districts based in the northern part of the state, which suggests that the Senate plan is a non-starter. So even though Republicans would appear to control the trifecta, it seems that Louisiana’s loose sense of partisan affiliation makes that mean a lot less than it would in other states.

Missouri: The GOP-controlled state House approved its new map, which essentially eliminates Dem Russ Carnahan’s 3rd CD, by a 106-53 vote. This falls three votes shy of a veto-proof margin, meaning that Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, could potentially wield veto power here. Three Republicans defected, but four African American Dem legislators sided with the GOP, apparently believing this map is good for Rep. Lacy Clay, who is black. (The Senate plan is very similar.)

Mississippi: A pretty amazing story, if true, from Cottonmouth blog:

This afternoon in a closed door meeting of Republican Senators, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant told the crowd that 5th Circuit Chief Judge Edith Jones would “take care of” legislative Republicans because Gov. Haley Barbour handled her nomination to the 5th Circuit when he was in the Reagan White House. Bryant went on to regale the caucus with his opinion that Chief Judge Jones would likely appoint Judge Leslie Southwick as the judge from the 5th Circuit, and that if that happened, “Democrats would come to us looking for a deal.”

In a letter to House Speaker Billy McCoy, Bryant denied making these statements, but his denial contained some weird language. Specifically, he said: “My point was that Democrats appoint federal judges and Republicans appoint federal judges, but all judges take an oath to decide cases fairly based on the law and the facts.” Was he honestly giving a civics 101 lesson to benighted members of his own caucus? Why discuss this kind of thing at all?

New Jersey: The first casualty of NJ’s new map is state Sen. John Girgenti (D), who earned the wrath of progressives – and a legitimate primary challenge from activist Jeff Gardner –  for his cowardly vote against marriage equality in 2009. Girgenti’s hometown was placed into a district largely belonging to another incumbent, Bob Gordon. Gardner will now run for Assembly instead.

Also of interest, Patrick Murray has some partisan breakdowns of the new districts. (Click here for PDF.)

Nevada: Republicans in Nevada, like the Dems, have now filed a redistricting lawsuit, but I’m not getting it at all. If you click through to the PDF and scroll down to the prayer for relief on page nine, all you’ll see is that they want to bar any elections from happening under current district lines. Nevada isn’t some Southern state in the 1950s, refusing to undertake redistricting, so what gives?

Oregon: Want to give your input into the Beaver State’s redistricting process? Blue Oregon has a list of public hearings. Also, Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian gives some props to SaoMagnifico’s proposed map, saying they show “it’s possible to draw maps that do a good job of following county lines while achieving a partisan result.”

Pennsylvania: PA’s state (not federal) maps are drawn by a five-member commission, whose first four members (2R, 2D) have to agree on the fifth. Pretty lulzy notion, of course, and the selection deadline has passed, so the choice will now fall to the state Supreme Court. Unfortunately, thanks to a loss a few years ago, Republicans control the court.

Texas: Another lawsuit, though this one makes a lot more sense to me. Hispanic lawmakers are suing to enjoin Rick Perry and the legislature from conducting any redistricting activities because they allege that Latinos have been undercounted by the Census, and they want those numbers corrected. I’m pessimistic about these kinds of suits succeeding, though.

Utah: State legislators are also cranking up the redistricting process here. Obviously issue #1 (and 2 and 3 and 4) will be how the new congressional map treats Dem Rep. Jim Matheson. The article doesn’t say what, if any, deadlines lawmakers face, though.

Virginia: At least some Republican legislators are hopping mad about the proposed state Senate map, and are considering filing suit to block it (dunno on what grounds). If the GOP is pissed off at this plan, isn’t that a good thing?