A Map of the Strange, Gerrymandered 4th Congressional District in Illinois

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    Sometimes called, "The Horseshoe", the 4th Congressional District of Illinois is considered one of the worst examples of gerrymandering in current US political geography. The district includes two separate East-West sub-districts, one largely Puerto Rican the other Mexican in population. In order for it to be considered a single district, all areas must be connected. For District 4, this is done via a thin strip of land along Highway 294. There is no population contained in this strip so it serves solely as a connector.

    Gerrymandering is widespread across the United States and other countries. It was named after, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry who's party drew up a serpentine-shaped district to favor his upcoming election. Gerrymander is a combination of Gerry and Salamander. Today Gerrymandering is carried out by both Democrats and Republicans to preserve the status of their party in certain districts. Gerrymandering has numerous negative impacts on the voting population including,
    -- less competitive elections
    -- increased security for the incumbant
    -- more loyalty to the party and less to the district's population

    This lack of focus on the population being represented means that voters are disenfranchised which can reduce voter turnout. Numerous attempts have been made to reverse gerrymandering but the problem persists. Because gerrymandering often favors both parties (albeit in separate districts) there is little chance of re-districting bills getting the necessary support to pass. California finally passed a state-wide proposition to (attempt to) fix the problem in 2008. The new maps were approved by citizens in a separate proposition in the November 2012 election.

    Note: the above map was made in May 2011 but is generally consistent with how the district looked for the November 2012 elections.

    Google Maps
    US National Atlas: nationalatlas.gov/printable/congress.html#il
    Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois's_4th_congressional_district
    Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering
    University of Illinois: netfiles.uiuc.edu/ro/www/OrangeandBlueObserver/archive/vo...

    GP Edwards, Andreas (no-nick), and 12 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Andreas (no-nick) 55 months ago | reply

      Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Centuries of towns and cities, and we'd love to have this added to the group!

    2. claibornewhite 27 months ago | reply

      gerrymandering is almost solely executed by republicans in an attempt to nullify miniority voting.

    3. VinceBullinger 27 months ago | reply

      Claiborne White: and it's done by democrats, too, in order to push more minorities into republican strongholds. It's extremely equal. Even the democrats gerrymandered one of their own out of a job because he's an honest politician (Dennis Kucinich). Stop being partisan: corrupt politicians in both major parties gerrymander all the time.

    4. BlueisCoool 27 months ago | reply

      A little strange to say the least !

    5. amproehl 27 months ago | reply

      @claibornewhite, I'm a Democrat but I have to agree with Vince, it is done by Democrats too. Both sides do it to protect their interests. The Democrats were against all of the redistricting initiatives in California that attempted to get rid of the problem. Gerrymandering is related to all of the problems we see in Congress today because it tends to solidify a district as either solidly Democrat or Republican. This encourages the candidates to be more extreme in their views instead of seeking more moderate tones as they do in mixed districts.

    6. ♫ Lion ♫ 27 months ago | reply


    7. kafitz44 27 months ago | reply

      I used to live in IL 4th, represented by Luis "El Gallito" Gutierrez. It looks like this because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was meant to curb minority disenfranchisement. For example, you can't take a "majority minority" community and slice it up like a pie, thus depriving the community of congressional representation. The large population of Latinos on the west side of Chicago sort of makes a semi-circle around a predominantly black community - it looks exactly like that map; Avondale, Logan Square, Humboldt Park on the north, Pilsen and Little Village on the south are relatively homogenous. The neighborhoods between - Lawndale and Garfield Park - are mostly black and have their own congressional district.

      Gutierrez, by the way, is the first Hispanic congressman to represent a district from the midwest, and he is one of the most vocal proponents of immigration reform. If it weren't for this so-called gerrymandering, the Hispanic community in Chicago would likely not have the representation they deserve.

      Furthermore, this is Chicago and every last one of these districts votes overwhelmingly Democrat. So it's not really political as much as it is an attempt at representing communities.

    8. kschovan 27 months ago | reply

      Remember this motto: He Who Draws The Lines Determines The Winners.

      Yes, it’s that simple. If you can’t quite visualize how gerrymandering can possibly succeed — after all, the number of voters stays the same no matter how you group them, and if you exclude opposition voters from one district, you necessarily must include them in an adjacent district — keep reading. This essay explains in no uncertain terms how manipulating district boundaries can lead to a complete subversion of true representative government.

      The G-Word

      When commentators blithely note that Republicans will have a “redistricting advantage” next year because of their dominance in state houses, they gloss over the ugly details of what that means. Few are willing to speak The G-Word, but Jonathan Chait at The New Republic takes the plunge:

      2. Redistricting. If that’s not a problem enough for Democrats, it’s about to get a lot worse. Republicans had their wave election at a very convenient time, putting themselves in position to control numerous state legislatures and thus control the next round of redistricting, which will last a decade. Partisan gerrymandering can be an extremely powerful tool, and combined with the natural geographic gerrymander, can give Republicans an overwhelming advantage, if not quite an absolute lock.

      The reason even most liberals are keeping mute about the horrors of the upcoming Republican gerrymandering is that Democrats have been the most ardent practitioners of it whenever they’ve had the slightest chance. You may have wondered how America overall tends to prefer conservative policies (pollsters like to say “We’re a center/right country”) yet we often have a liberal or at least Democratic majority in the Congress. How can this be? Gerrymandering. It’s so powerful that it has at times fundamentally altered the political slant of our government. Many of the worst gerrymandered districts illustrated in tomorrow’s Part II of this essay (“The Top Ten Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts in the United States” — don’t miss it!) are the handiwork of Democratic politicians, so the Democrats would have no leg to stand on if they were to now turn around and criticize the Republicans for doing what they’ve been doing for decades — centuries, even. The Republicans have done it too, of course, but in the majority of states in recent cycles, the Democrats have had the advantage, and they’ve not been ashamed to use it.

    9. John Poshepny 21 months ago | reply

      One of the biggest gerrymadered districts ever.

    10. amproehl 18 months ago | reply

      As should be clear from the comment thread, gerrymandering is practiced by both Republicans and Democrats alike. Here is a good writeup of how the process worked in favor of the Republicans in the 2012 election, www.huffingtonpost.com/geoffrey-r-stone/why-did-the-repub...

    11. amproehl 6 months ago | reply

      Nice write up in the Economist on "Why Politicians Gerrymander" which includes links to a number of election district maps, both good and bad. It includes a link to my map, referring to the shape of the district as "flattened earmuffs." - www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/10/econom...

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