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Study: General Assembly Not Elected By Consent Of Illinois Residents

Partisan redistricting of Illinois state legislative district maps has created continuing partisan bias in election outcomes while making it far less likely that voters will have a choice between candidates of both major parties in the general election, and voters in primary elections have even fewer choices, according to a new research report published by CHANGE Illinois.

"By any measure, the level of competition and competitiveness in legislative elections under the last four partisan maps is extremely low and getting worse," according to Partisan Advantage and Competitiveness in Illinois Redistricting.

"These findings call into question the effectiveness of legislative elections in providing a meaningful incentive for citizen engagement. They also undermine the conventional wisdom that the members of the Illinois General Assembly are elected by the consent of Illinois residents."

CHANGE Illinois published the new research, which was conducted by political reform veteran Cindi Canary and Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

It examines questions about whether the partisan advantage gained through a new legislative map has lasting effects beyond the first post-redistricting election and whether the lack of contested and competitive elections under such partisan legislative maps extends to primary elections as well as general elections.

The new report updates and expands the Canary-Redfield 2014 report, Backroom Battles & Partisan Gridlock: Redistricting in Illinois.

The report's findings include:

  • In 2012, Democratic candidates in the House won 52 percent of the total vote and 60 percent of the seats, and Democratic candidates in the Senate won 54 percent of the vote and 68 percent of the seats.

    In 2014 in a midterm election favoring Republicans, the partisan bias in the 2011 maps still delivered for Democratic candidates.

    While the margin in total votes cast for Democrats running in legislative elections shrank to a near-tie statewide, Democrats still won 71 House seats, a 60 percent majority.

    The Democrats also won 11 of the 19 Senate seats that were up in 2014 while receiving less than a majority of the total votes cast in those 19 districts.

  • The percentage of General Assembly elections featuring at least two candidates has decreased significantly over time.

    In the first election under a new map in 1982 and 1992, a strong majority of the elections were contested. By 2012, 60 percent of House elections and 51 percent of Senate elections were uncontested. In 2014, 58 percent of House elections were uncontested.

    Due to staggered terms, there was an election in only one-third of the Senate districts, and 12 of the 19 (63 percent) were uncontested.

  • The degree of competition in Illinois legislative elections is low and declining.

    When a winning candidate's vote total is 55 percent or less, the district is considered "competitive." On average over the past four decades, 88 percent of voters (104 of 118 House races, 52 of 59 Senate races) had no choice at all on the ballot or a choice between a sure winner and a sure loser.

  • There has been a dramatic increase in the number of legislators elected without even a token opponent in both the primary and the general election.

    In 1982, 20 of the 177 legislators elected faced no opponent in either the primary or the general. In 2012, 69 legislators had no opponent in both the primary and the general election - essentially given a free pass.

  • The number of "free pass" legislators elected increased in 2014 even though only one-third of the Senate was up for election.

    In 2014, 58 (49 percent) of those elected to the House did not have an opponent in the primary or the general election, as did 12 of 19 (63 percent) of those elected to the Senate.

  • Voters in primary elections have even fewer choices for participation, engagement, and communication than voters in general elections.

    In the 2014 primary election, 89 percent of House and 95 percent of the Senate legislative primaries were uncontested.

  • The level of primary activity in districts dominated by one party is very low and has decreased significantly under the last two partisan maps.

    Under the 2001 and 2011 maps, the average number of same-party competitive primaries in districts dominated by one party was 11 percent in the House and 4 percent in the Senate.

    This clearly indicates that voters in districts dominated by one political party in the general election were rarely presented with meaningful choices in the primaries.

"Illinois' partisan redistricting process undermines our democracy and discourages civic participation," said Ra Joy, executive director of CHANGE Illinois. "We need to put people before partisanship and have fair maps drawn by an impartial commission listening to voters and acting in the open. That's why CHANGE Illinois supports the Independent Map Amendment."


See also:

* Take Back Illinois!

* The Redistricting Song.

* The City Council Just Secretly Redrew Your Ward.

* Obama's Gerrymander.

* Reboot Redistricting.


Comments welcome.


Posted on January 14, 2016

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