Once per decade, states across the country redraw political boundaries — a process that too often leads to districts that resemble exercises in geometric perversion. These district lines twist, turn, stretch, squiggle and meander — all with the goal of letting the political party in charge choose their voters rather than the other way around.
In Illinois, we've seen the ridiculousness of such districts. Twenty years ago, the 17th Congressional District stretched from the Quad-Cities through an alley in Springfield. On one side of the narrow passageway was the 16th District; on the other was the 18th. The 17th squeezed in between.
We are now on the cusp of another redistricting. And just in time for the lame duck session in Springfield, state Rep. Tim Butler, a Republican, has introduced a bill that would authorize an independent, non-partisan commission to draw the lines.
We've always been a fan of this approach. Iowa's lines are drawn by the non-partisan Legislative Service Agency. And while legislators vote up or down on proposed districts, the state's process is a model that yields fair districts and treats voters with respect.
We have our doubts whether Butler's legislation will go anywhere. As others have pointed out, without Democratic supporters, it seems unlikely to go far at all. Still, we agree with Butler's sentiment that people are "sick and tired" of the way it's being done now.
We believe Illinois lawmakers would be wise to move in Iowa's direction, and we believe Gov. JB Pritzker needs to stick to his promise that he'll reject any map that isn't fair.
That said, there are Democrats in Iowa who are worried that their state's long tradition of non-partisan redistricting will change. James Q. Lynch of the Gazette reported this week that "Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said that while he’s not "obsessing over" redistricting, he is "definitely concerned."
For their part, Republicans lawmakers dismiss worries about redistricting, saying it's all a conspiracy theory. But Democrats cite the GOP's decision in 2017 to sweep away, with little warning, collective bargaining rights for public employees as reason to worry.
We have seen no sign yet that Iowa's tried-and-true redistricting practices will change, and we would oppose any such move should it arise. We only hope that someday soon Illinois lawmakers see the wisdom of this independent approach and change their ways.