Illinois Republican Joins Push for Nonpartisan Redistricting

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Illinois Republican Rep. Bob Dold is joining a bipartisan group of colleagues trying to fix the redistricting process that contributed to his loss in 2012, creating a two-year gap in his congressional tenure.

Dold will co-sponsor two pieces of legislation, both put forward by Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper, designed to end gerrymandering and create a more open, nonpartisan redistricting process. The first bill requires states to create independent redistricting commissions, which would develop redistricting plans and submit them to the state legislature for approval. If a plan isn’t passed and then signed into law by a certain date, the highest court in the state would select -- but not alter in any way -- one of the plans and enact it.  The second bill requires states to post redistricting information online 10 days before the plan is adopted; this information would include a map, the reasons for the new lines, dissenting opinions about the changes and other information.

Dold is the third Republican to co-sponsor the bill requiring independent commissions (there are 11 others) and the second GOP member to join the legislation putting redistricting information online (which has 15 other co-sponsors).

 “The corrupt process of gerrymandering has led to a deeply partisan and ineffective Congress,” Dold said in a statement. “We need to end the backwards practice of letting politicians choose their voters instead of letting people choose their representatives.  These commonsense, bipartisan reforms to the redistricting process would take the power away from political parties and give it back to the voters.”

Dold has a personal interest in the two pieces of legislation because of the impact redistricting played in his political career. He was elected in the Republican wave of 2010 after now-Sen. Mark Kirk left the 10th District seat to run for the upper chamber. Dold then narrowly lost the seat to Democrat Brad Schneider two years later before winning it back in 2014.

Many blamed Dold’s narrow 2012 defeat on redistricting -- he lost to the challenger by slightly more than 1 percent of the votes before winning by just over 3 percent in 2014. In endorsing Dold last year, the Chicago Tribune partially blamed his 2012 loss on redistricting.

Dold himself referred to the redrawn lines in his concession speech that year, according to Chicago radio station WBEZ, saying, “We gave it everything we had in this race. We worked hard, made tremendous sacrifices, and didn’t let the daunting odds of redistricting get in our way.”

Illinois’ 10th District is likely to see yet another rematch in 2016, with Schneider telling the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this month that he has “all but decided” to challenge Dold yet again.

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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