The Ruling Party is opposed to this. It kept such a proposal off one ballot and wants to do it in another, each time deploying an ad hoc group represented by the party’s lawyer, while denying its own involvement.
Constitutional issues are arguable in the matter, but the party has a very big stake here. Drawing electoral district boundaries is a monopoly they have gotten used to.
The system seems blatantly undemocratic — hermetically sealed office-holders deciding whom if anyone they will run against. As such it was raised as an issue at a town hall meeting described in my Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters.
A softball question had just been answered at the mid-July, 2013 meeting at the Oak Park Library. Then . . .
A Certified Public Accountant shifted tone considerably, urging [Sen. Don] Harmon to “do something about corruption in our very corrupt state.” He specified “gerrymandering” and complained, “The way it’s set up, candidates know they will win,” continuing at length in this vein.
“Each of us is vulnerable in a primary,” Harmon said. When an opponent surfaces, he might have added. Lilly, appointed in 2010, had run unopposed in primary and general elections in 2012 and would do so again in 2014. Harmon had run unopposed in the general every year but one since he was elected in 2002.
He was to be opposed in the 2014 primary, by a Galewood man with public-employee-union background, whom he defeated handily. He was unopposed in the general, though briefly threatened by a last-minute Republican opponent who thought better of it after a week and withdrew for “personal reasons.”
A candidate needs money to answer nominating-petition challenges, which led to the withdrawal for lack of funds of a credible [primary] candidate seeking to oppose Congressman Danny Davis in 2014, for instance.
Rep. Camille Lilly wound up this meeting with a request.
She closed, telling the questioner, “Give us a call.” This while giving no telephone number or email address or even street address, which for what it’s worth was a few blocks inside Austin, one of the city’s highest-crime-rate neighborhoods.
This location was symptomatic of her low-profile, virtually nonexistent approach to representing mostly white, well-policed Oak Park, not to mention other communities in a long meandering (gerrymandered?) line moving northwest as far as Franklin Park, eight miles from her office.
The long meandering line (her district) was stark evidence of the state’s 2010 redistricting by the Ruling Party to make sure black and other Democrat office-holders are elected with at most token opposition. In another of these meetings, Harmon explained such redistricting as a civil-rights imperative, citing federal law in the matter.
He was apparently referring to the requirement to “remedy a violation” of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. If there was such a violation in Illinois districts in 2010, nobody talked about it. But for the senator, it provided respectability to Ruling Party redistricting.