SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As Missouri legislators battle over a new map of the state’s congressional districts, the new map for Illinois is settled. It’s throwing the three Republican members of Congress from southern Illinois for a loop.
Congresswoman, Mary Miller, is running for re-election in Illinois’s 15th district even though she no longer lives there. Miller hasn’t moved. Democrats who control the state legislature in Springfield moved her 15th district.
Under the former congressional map, three Republicans represented nearly the entire southern half of the state with Mike Bost in the 12th district, Miller in the 15th, and Rodney Davis in the 13th. However, with the 2020 census, Illinois lost a seat in Congress. Democrats who control the state legislature re-drew the district boundaries to try to ensure that one less Republican would be going to Congress by creating a new “blue” Democrat-leaning 13th district stretching from Edwardsville, East St. Louis and Alton through Springfield, Decatur, and around Champaign.
So, Davis, the current 13th district congressman, now lives in the 15th. Bost remains in his home 12th district. Miller now lives in the 12th but running again in the 15h, facing off against fellow Republican Davis in the 15th. Under law a candidate need only live in the state where they run, not a particular district.
“(Democrats) attacked every Illinoisan by putting this gerrymandered mess together,” Davis said. “You don’t even have to zoom on these congressional districts to see that it was nothing but political.”
In a statement, Miller said in part that Republicans “do not want (Democrat Governor), J. B. Pritzker, deciding who represents them in Congress through backroom deals and gerrymandered districts.”
The new 15th district now includes Highland in southern Madison County and Godrey in north Madison County. They’re about 35 miles apart, a 35 minute drive. However, if you want to go from one to the other but stay in the district the whole time, you would would have to go the long way around. It would be closer to 400 miles and a 7-8 hour trip.
“This is a significant change,” said Dr. Kenneth Moffett, a political science professor at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, and chair of the department.
This kind of political shenanigans is legal as long it doesn’t discriminate against minority voters, he said. It was also deeply rooted U.S. history, back to the days of 5th Vice-President of the United States, before he was Vice-President.
“Back to Governor Elbridge Gerry in Massachusetts who drew a district that looked like a salamander,” Moffett said. “Somebody said that’s not a salamander, that’s a “Gerry-mander.” This was back in the late 1700s. The term stuck and it’s the term we have today.”
In spite of the Illinois legislature’s intentions, history also tells us, gerrymandering doesn’t always work.
“There is what we think happens and then there is the election,” Moffett laughed.