Jim Nowlan

Democratic mapmakers in Springfield have crafted new legislative districts that are so laughably offensive to the Illinois Constitution that the state Supreme Court would either have to reject them outright, or confirm the court’s unsavory reputation for partisan political corruptness.

Illinois GOP leaders have challenged the remap in federal court, on grounds that Dems used loosey-goosey population survey figures, rather than the actual U.S. Census headcount. I think Republicans have even stronger grounds in state court, but GOP leaders probably fear the four Dems on the seven-member court will, per usual, find a way to protect their party.

The state charter is crystal clear: “Legislative (state Senate) Districts shall be compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population. Representative Districts shall be compact, contiguous, and substantially equal in population.”

Merriam-Webster defines compactness as “closely and neatly packed together; dense.” A circle is perfectly compact. A box is compact.

By the way, the governor had promised repeatedly to insist on fair maps, openly arrived at. So much for promises.

Many of the new districts are shaped like the menagerie from the bar scene in Star Wars — salamanders, giraffes, snakes, worms and lizards. Democratic state lawmakers with sophisticated computer programs drew districts that snake down alleyways, I swear, to connect like-minded voters, slicing and dicing local government boundaries and communities of interest with reckless abandon. One example of many: Crystal Lake, a tightly knit community of 38,000 in suburban Chicago, is torn asunder, into four of the state’s 59 senate districts, to increase chances of creating a Democratic district nearby.

And if you think contorted districts are necessary to protect minorities, I have a bridge I want to sell you. The map of Chicago neighborhoods (Google it) shows relatively compact racial and ethnic groupings.

GOP leaders should be expressing more outrage over the maps, which are gratuitously abusive of both elected Republicans and of just plain citizens like you and me.

Think of the voters in these giraffe-neck districts. How in the world will they ever know which district they are in, who represents them, and of whom to contact when they might have a problem with Illinois government?!

We wouldn’t be facing such atrocious maps had not the state high court in 2016 blocked a petition drive signed by 700,000 voters. The ballot proposal would have allowed voters to determine if they wanted an independent commission to draw maps, without partisan gerrymandering.

But the court, in a vote of four Democrats over three Republicans, blocked this opportunity. The majority opinion was the most contrived bit of jurisprudence since the Dred Scott decision, which prompted the Civil War.

Nor, if faced with a challenge, could the Illinois Supreme Court hide behind precedent. Indeed, this court in 1981 declared a state legislative district invalid because it offended the compactness requirement of our state charter, and forced a redrawing. The districts shown nearby are as bad as that invalid district.

It would be fascinating to see how the state’s high court Democrat majority might weasel its way to endorsement of the new maps, in effect calling black white, that is, noncompact compact.

So, GOP leaders, take on the Illinois Supreme Court. If you lose, we’ll expose the court for its corrupt, partisan decision.

Jim Nowlan has been a state House member, senior aide to three unindicted Illinois governors, and former chair of the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission.

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