Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

October 16, 2013

Lawmakers are choosing voters

When it comes to state legislative races, most of us don’t have much of a choice in the voting booth.

In fact, during the last general election 42 percent of Illinois lawmakers didn’t have an opponent at all.

And another 53 percent faced only nominal opposition, winning their races by a margin greater than 5 percent.

That leaves few competitive legislative races.

In 2012, only 10 of 194 legislative races — a mere 5 percent — were actually close.

So in most Statehouse elections, the winner was a foregone conclusion long before Election Day.

“I think a lot of people don’t run because they don’t think they can win,” said Neil Anderson, of Rock Island who is seeking the Republican nomination for state senate. “The system we have now favors one party. The public deserves to have a choice in candidates.”

Anderson, who expects to run against incumbent state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, in the 2014 general election said he has been told his race may well be the most competitive state senate race in Illinois.

In fact, it may be the only competitive Senate race.

That’s not good.

When politicians fear the voters, we have democracy.

When voters fear the government, we have something far more sinister.

Today, we have an unprecedented level of arrogance in the Illinois General Assembly.

Instead of having a legislature beholden to the voters, we have a membership that kowtows to legislative leaders, union bosses and other special interests.

How did we get in this predicament?

The professional political class has found a way to keep most lawmakers from being held accountable.

Instead of voters picking legislators, legislators are picking their voters.

It all begins with how the boundaries of Illinois legislative districts are drawn.

Using sophisticated computer programs loaded full of voter history, census data, demographic trends and a whole host of other information, lawmakers draw up legislative districts.

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