Illinois no longer has the earliest congressional primary in the nation. The legislature thankfully moved it back to mid-March from early February, where it was set in 2008 to help Barack Obama on Super Tuesday. Feb. 2, 2010, was the earliest congressional primary in American history.
But even mid-March only allows two-and-a-half months to campaign after the New Year, which is when voters start paying attention. (That’s exactly how the politicians want it, too. Illinois’s late-winter primary is intended to make life difficult for independent candidates by forcing them to campaign in cold weather.)
But we’re still going to have the shortest election season anywhere. Especially now that Federal Judge Joan Lefkow has pushed back the filing deadline to Dec. 27 while she reviews a Republican Party lawsuit over the new Democratic-drawn congressional districts. If Lefkow doesn’t rule by Dec. 21, she could extend the deadline into the New Year.
Republicans are arguing that the lines were redrawn to reverse the results of the 2010, in which the GOP took four Democratic seats. They’re also arguing that the map violates the Voting Rights Act by failing to create a second district for the state’s growing minority population.
That argument worked for Democrats in Texas, where a federal court threw out the Republicans’ map and drew a new map with more districts for African-Americans and Latinos. This week, the Supreme Court is hearing a Republican challenge to the court’s map. Texas, which has a March 6 primary, is in an even tighter time crunch in Illinois.
Because of two Democratic strategies for gaming the elections -- an early primary and one of the most gerrymandered congressional maps in recent political history -- many of us may not know until the New Year which congressional district we live in, or which candidates we have to choose from.
Is it too much to ask for congressional districts drawn by a non-partisan panel, and a primary election closer to November? This is Illinois, so yes, it is too much to ask.
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