It's 2011, which means it's been ten years since the last political re-districting at the local, county, state and national level. Which means that it's occurring all over again this year. Actually, the new maps for Champaign County and the state of Illinois are already done -- approved by vote and, in the case of the state, signed by Governor Quinn. Democratic majorities should be safe. Some folks aren't happy about it. Fair enough. Color me unmoved.
See, I have more of an all-encompassing view of the whole re-districting/gerrymandering thing, call it what you will. The elephant in the room here is who votes, and how. No one likes to throw the spotlight of blame (or partial-blame) onto the voters but, let's face it, it does belong there to an extent. The majority of voters typically follow a pattern. They tend to either vote Democrat or Republican. Or Green, in certain cases. A small number of voters are what pundits and talking heads love to label as "swing voters." Ok, so, we've got that all set.
The problem with attacking the re-districting efforts at the political level is that it only addresses part of the problem. The other part -- the major part -- is that of voters who are so predictable. In other words: why does no one ever ask the obvious question of why politicians are so easily able to gerrymander? The answer, of course: predictable voters. Now, I don't necessarily blame people for generally voting for members of the same political party. I, after all, tend to vote for Democratic candidates 80-90% of the time. I'm one of the (many) predictable ones. Now, does this make it right that politicians exploit such predictability? No. But it does mean that we, as voters, share part of the blame.
Whether we're talking about Republican strongholds like St. Joseph, IL, or Democratic bastions like Urbana, IL, the fact remains that you're not going to be able to draw compact and contiguous competitive political districts within those areas. And that's because the vast majority of St. Joseph voters will vote for a GOP candidate, and the vast majority of Urbana voters will vote for a Democratic candidate. That's the way the cookie crumbles.
So, fellow voters, I offer you this ultimatum: You can throw the blame for re-districting onto the politicians, shake your fists defiantly in the air, and absolve yourselves of blame. But that won't really change anything. Instead, you could consider expanding the 'swing-voter' pool. Free your mind, and ignore the party labels behind the candidates' names. Don't make it so easy for the folks who do the mapping to know who you are, and how you vote. Of course, a lot of this depends on the quality, viewpoints and positions of the candidates. We as voters can't be expected to chuck our principles out the window for the sake of appearing flexible.
And that's a post for another day.