Commercial-News Editorial: Changes weaken county voters | Opinion
The decrease in population Illinois recorded since the 2010 Census cost the state one of its seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and cost Vermilion County voters a united voice in deciding who that representative will be.
Once the Census results are final, Illinois lawmakers — in this case, the majority Democrats —must draw new district map to reflect changes in the count. Vermilion County, whose voters all cast their ballots for the same congressional representatives for decades, will see their results split between two congressional districts.
The former 15th Illinois Congressional district now includes only the far southern part of the county. It stretches across a good part of the middle of the state except for a snake-like 13th Congressional District that starts around St. Louis and runs northeast.
As anyone with a television will know, two Republican incumbents — Mary Miller and Rodney Davis — are waging an expensive fight for their party’s nomination. Their districts were merged to create the new 15th District.
The rest of Vermilion County, roughly from just south of Westville north, will vote for candidates in the 2nd Congressional District. There, incumbent Democrat Robin Kelly from southern Cook County, whichever Republican — Shane Cultra of Onarga, Thomas Lynch of Cissna Park or Ashley Ramos of Bradley — wins the primary.
The 2022 version of the 2nd District includes a good portion of the Lake Michigan shore from north of the University of Chicago to the state line. It runs along the Illinois-Indiana state line until it reaches Vermilion County where it heads west, includes Westville, Catlin and Oakwood, but not Fairmount. It then meanders northward, bobbing west to include Rantoul and Pontiac, before angling back northeast to include Kankakee before getting back to Chicago.
The majority of voters in the district reside in Chicago, the south suburbs and around Kankakee. That weakens the volume of Vermilion County voters regardless of who wins in November.
The 2022 redistricting efforts again show why Illinois — and all states — should use a non-partisan, practical method to create legislative districts. The twists and turns of the new districts, designed to maximize the Democrats’ chances of winning, put serving the public’s interests last. Just as the Republicans did when they had the opportunity to create such maps.
Anyone knows the farmers in northern Vermilion County share few of the same interests as residents on the south side of Chicago. Yet one congressional representative will speak for them all.
Politics on the state and national levels place gaining and keeping power — and the financial benefits campaigns enjoy because of that power — as a priority. Serving the people who cast the ballots? That’s way down the list.
That doesn’t mean local voters should surrender. Voters should continue to press candidates on the need for non-partisan redistricting, and cast their ballots for those who pledge to support the change. Vermilion County being shoved into the far corners of two large congressional districts means local officials will need to work harder to be heard — or be content with the silence.