The rules governing Illinois elections need to change.
On Monday, the Citizens Redistricting Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to approve the maps of legislative districts it drafted two weeks ago. This follows a public comment period that meant, well, nothing.
This isn't the commission's fault. The way that the ballot initiative that established the commission was written created a strange ending to the schedule. The commission has to approve the maps by Aug. 15. But it also has to provide public comment time before making maps final. If the commission were to alter the all-but-final "preliminary" maps it approved at the end of July, it would have to start the public comment over again -- and thus miss the Aug. 15 deadline.
This weird little coda is of a piece with a very strange redistricting process created by a very strange initiative. Redistricting is the most political of processes, but politics was supposed to be removed from the process by the commission. Communities of interest were supposed to be kept together, except when they weren't. Political competition was the stated goal of the backers of the commission, but the commission wasn't allowed to look at the data necessary to create political competition. This was a commission that was essentially designed to fail.
So the redistricting commission's work is effectively over after the ceremonial vote Monday. What's next? Legal challenges or a possible referendum or both, from a variety of groups -- from civil rights lawyers to Republicans -- who are less than happy with the commission's handiwork. If these challenges succeed, the redistricting commission's work won't take effect.
So what was the point? That's a good question.