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Illinois to lose congressional seat: Who will survive?

Updated: December 21, 2010 4:38PM



WASHINGTON--Illinois will lose a congressional seat, the U.S. Census Bureau announced on Tuesday; following the 2012 elections, Illinois will send 18 members to the House of Representatives, down from the current 19.

Nationally, the reapportionment favors Republicans: states that vote Republican gained the most seats, which has implications not only for the balance of power in Congress, but in the 2012 presidential campaign, because the the electoral votes are based on the new census counts.

In Illinois, Democrats will take the first stab at drawing the new district maps at a time when the GOP just picked up four seats. Presumably, the Illinois Democrats will mull whether they can throw together in a fight for survival any of the 11 Illinois Republicans who will be sworn in on Jan. 5 with GOP Reps. Joe Walsh, Bob Dold, Adam Kinzinger, and Bobby Schilling potentially the most vulnerable.

Illinois remains one of the top five most populous states in the nation, with a new official population total of 12,864,380, according to the new Census figures.

The Tuesday announcement just deals with reapportioning the 435-member House of Representatives. Starting in February, the Census Bureau will start announcing the state-specific numbers that are needed in order for redistricting. In Illinois, the Democratic controlled Illinois General Assembly will try to draw new boundaries for House, state legislative, city wards, judicial and other districts--though if there is not agreement, the job is kicked over to a commission.

The reapportionment favors Republicans: Texas picked up the most seats--four, with Florida gaining two and Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington gaining one.

In all, ten states lost seats. Eight of them are states that vote Democrat: New York and Ohio lost two seats, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are down one.

Missouri and Louisiana are also down a seat.

Illinois has been loosing congressional seats since 1930. Here’s a recap on the number of House members Illinois has been sending to Washington each decade:

2010: 18

2000: 19

1990: 20

1980: 22

1970: 24

1960: 24

1950: 25

1940: 26

1930: 27

In Illinois there will be a political struggle over whether a new congressional map drops a seat from northern Illinois or Downstate. There also will be internal wrangling between GOP and Democratic incumbents who would not be threatened with losing their seat because of population shifts--but would want to improve or enhance political viability by having new district maps include neighborhoods that would be reliable Republican or Democratic votes.

If the census show a big Hispanic population increase--and if that growth is not scattered across the state--Illinois Democrats may be under pressure to create a second Hispanic district. The first Hispanic district in Illinois was drawn following the 1990 census--a convoluted “C” shape district that includes Hispanic neighborhoods on Chicago’s North and South Sides wrapped around a district running from the lakefront to the near western suburbs drawn to yield an African American representative.

Following the 2000 and 1990 census, in Illinois, the GOP and Democratic House incumbents got together and cut deals with each other in order to try to protect their own seats in the wake of the musical chair scenario where it would be impossible for all of them to return to Congress. Still, they could not all save their seats. The remap after the 2000 Census saw Democratic Rep. David Phelps and GOP Rep. John Shimkus running against each other in the same district. Shimkus won and has been re-elected ever since.

State Sen. Kwame Raul (D-Chicago), who chairs the state senate reapportionment committee, told me on Monday the legislature will try to seize more control of the congressional remap process because it is their “responsibility,” he said. Redistricting reform measures Raul backed never won state legislative approval.



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