Skip to main content

Full text of "The legislature redistricts Illinois"

See other formats


uM ':iSu\!iu ^v^!?: 








Published seven times each month by the Univer- 
sity of Illinois. Entered as second-class matter 
December 11, 1912, at the post office at Urbana, 
Illinois, under the Act of August 24, 1912. 
Office of Publication, 207 Administration Build- 
ing, Urbana, Illinois. 

Volume No. 54 
October, 1956 
Number 16 








When it became evident that the IlHnois legislature would be redistricted 
in the 1955 session, the Institute of Government and Public Affairs was in a 
position to follow the activity closely and to contribute to the understanding 
of this phase of the political process. Staff members of the Institute, over the 
past six years, have worked directly with Illinois legislative commissions 
created to study governmental problems and have had unusual opportunities 
_„. to observe the work of the General Assembly. The authors have had close 
and especially valuable contact with the Illinois legislative process on both a 
formal and an informal basis. Professor Gilbert Y. Steiner, from 1951 to 
■■ ' 1953, served as research associate with the Municipal Revenue Commission 
and is currently a consultant to the Northeastern Illinois Metropolitan Area 
Local Government Services Commission. Professor Samuel K. Gove served, 
in 1950 and 1951, on the staff of the Commission to Study State Govern- 
ment and, in 1953 and 1954, on the research staff of the State Personnel 
^ Administration Commission created by the 1953 General Assembly. The au- 
^- thors worked with legislative leaders of both parties in seeing the work of 
the commissions through the legislative sessions and in aiding in the prepa- 
ration of legislation. A first product of their study of the legislature was The 
Illinois Legislative Process, published in 1954. 

The Institute and the authors gratefully acknowledge comments on pre- 
liminary drafts of the manuscript by Senators George E. Drach and William 
J. Lynch and by Representatives Arthur Sprague, William E. Pollack, and 
Paul Powell. Other members of the General Assembly have made helpful 
contributions, as have Messrs. Jack F. Isakoff and Dick Viar of the Illinois 
Legislative Council, and Professors Charles Kneier, Phillip Monypenny, 
and Charles Hagan of the University of Illinois. 

As is the case in all studies published by the Institute, maximum freedom 
has been accorded the authors. The views expressed and the conclusions 
reached are theirs. 


Institute of Government and Public Affairs 



This is a case study of legislative redistricting, a policy-making situation 
in which the group with the most immediate interest in the policy is itself 
the formal policy maker. Redistricting legislation is of basic concern to legis- 
lators because it is a kind of job specification which can be drawn to the 
special advantage or disadvantage of any member. Redistricting can insure 
continuity in office or can insure retirement, depending on the terms of the 
bill. No other legislation has quite the same direct effect on a legislative 
career, and with no other legislation do the demands, the proposals, the ma- 
neuvering, and the compromises emanate from within the legislative body 
to the same extent. The focus of this study, then, is on the pressures, the 
techniques, and the influences that obtain in a legislative situation wherein 
the legislative interest itself is predominant.^ 

The redistricting legislation under consideration here formally originated 
in the Illinois House of Representatives on May 24, 1955, but almost all of 
its important legislative history took place before that date.^ Some of its 
characteristics were fixed by a constitutional amendment proposed by the 
1953 General Assembly and ratified in November 1954. That amendment 
temporarily resolved the most compelling general problem in Illinois legis- 
lative apportionment, i.e., finding a pattern of distribution of legislative 

^ For our general analysis of the Illinois legislative process, see Samuel K. Gove 
and Gilbert Y. Steiner, The Illinois Legislative Process (Urbana, 1954). 

^ House Bill No. 1123, "A Bill for an Act to apportion the State of Illinois into 
senatorial and representative districts and to repeal an Act herein named," was 
signed by the Governor on June 29, 1955, became law July 1, 1955, and was initially 
applicable at the time of filing petitions for the April primary preceding the Novem- 
ber 1956 election. 

[ 5 ] 

seats between the City of Chicago and the remainder of the state. Although 
the Constitution of 1870 provided for a decennial redistricting of each house 
on a population basis, there had in fact been no redistricting since 1901. 
House and Senate districts were congruent, and of the fifty-one of each, 
eighteen lay in Chicago, one lay in Cook County outside of Chicago, and 
the remaining thirty-two were downstate. With a population about two-fifths 
of the state's total, Chicago held about one-third of the seats in the General 

Ratification of the amendment did not achieve redistricting. It merely 
provided an outline for the General Assembly to fill in in 1955, and con- 
tained provisions that practically compelled implementation of the outline. 
The outline cut the state into three great pieces, Chicago, Cook County 
outside of Chicago, and Illinois' remaining 101 downstate counties. For the 
initial redistricting, each geographical unit was assigned a specific number 
of members of each chamber. Districting was to be based on a population 
standard in the House of Representatives while area was to be the "prime 
consideration" in fashioning Senate districts. It was left to the 1955 Gen- 
eral Assembly to draw the boundary lines for 59 House districts and for 
58 Senate districts. Until 1963, only 23 House seats were to be in Chicago, 
7 in Cook County outside of Chicago, and 29 downstate. In redistricting 
the House in 1963 and every ten years thereafter, the ceiling on Chicago 
would no longer obtain. Of the apparently permanent Senate districts, 18 
were to be in Chicago, 6 in Cook County outside of Chicago, and 34 down- 
state. If the legislature failed to act in its 1955 regular session, the Governor 
was to appoint, from a list of party nominees, a special bipartisan commis- 
sion to do the job; if the commission did not succeed in redistricting, all 
members of the General Assembly were to run from the state at large in 
1956. A similar plan insures that the House will be redistricted in 1963 and 
every decade thereafter. 

House Bill No. 1123 of the 1955 legislative session could not be treated 
as an ordinary piece of legislation. Other bills considered by the General 
Assembly can pass or fail, and in the latter event, the issue is at least 
temporarily terminated. Under the provisions of the constitutional amend- 
ment, however, some kind of reapportionment was self-executing. The legis- 
lature was ofTered the first opportunity to deal with the question. If this 
opportunity was declined, other means were provided. In short, unlike the 
alternatives presented on other issues, the alternatives here did not include 
the status quo. 

In addition to the elimination of the status quo as an alternative, the 
range of legislative activity was further limited by the constitutional directive 
assigning blocs of seats to each of the three geographical areas previously 
noted. Finally, the population and area bases, for House and Senate re- 

[ 6 ] 

spectively, were pre-existing limits on legislative activity. Within these limits, 
and within the routine requirements of compactness and contiguity, the 
legislature was privileged to draw districts. The minimum requirement for 
an understanding of the reapportionment legislation in 1955 is an under- 
standing of this formal framework for legislative activity. 

These were not the sole limits, however. Given only a need to conform 
to the requirements spelled out above, innumerable proposals for redistrict- 
ing should have been satisfactory. In fact, informal limits on the terms of 
the bill also shaped its content. We have hypothesized that the most im- 
portant of the informal limits included the following: 

1. Individual preservation, the desire of each legislator to be in a "safe" 

2. Mutual preservation, the willingness of members to cooperate with 
each other in protecting incumbents against potential challengers. 

3. Political party preservation, the desire of the leaders of each political 
party organization to maximize its strength in the legislature. 

4. Bloc preservation, the desire of members of voting blocs — whether 
based on geographic, economic, or ideological cohesion — to retain existing 
personnel and strength. Such blocs are often bipartisan, and their member- 
ship is relatively small. 

An obvious distinction between the formal and the informal limits, so 
called, lies in the fact that the former were spelled out in the Constitution, 
were well known, and were susceptible to enforcement and interpretation 
by both the Governor whose signature on a redistricting bill was necessary 
and by the courts to which a challenge of the bill could be taken. The in- 
formal limits were nowhere written out and were not susceptible to legal 
enforcement, but these factors made them no less important. The expla- 
nation of the 1955 redistricting legislation lies in the adjustment of the formal 
and informal limits to each other. If either type of limit had been the 
exclusive criterion, the job would have been routine; if the limits had been 
incompatible, the job would have been impossible. 


By 1953, the Illinois constitutional directive for decennial redistricting 
had been ignored for forty-two years, the last reapportionment having taken 
place in 1901. In this period, there had been both major population in- 
creases and major population movements. The 1950 census showed that one 
county contained over half of the state's population, but under the 1901 
apportionment, this county (Cook) contained only 19 of the state's 51 Sena- 
torial districts from each of which one Senator and three Representatives 
were elected.^ 

'The 1950 population of Cook County was 4,508,792; the downstate population 
was 4,203,384. 

[ 7 ] 

Some attempts had been made during the intervening years to effect a 
legislative reapp>ortionment. Proposals for statutory change met with no suc- 
cess. Any statutory change designed to carry out the constitutional mandate 
w^ould have meant sizeable increases in representation for Cook County at 
the expense of downstate. Attention focused on changing the rules of ap- 
portionment as early as 1922 when a constitutional convention included a 
new method of apportionment in a proposed constitution submitted to but 
rejected by the voters."* In the period 1922-1952, some twenty resolutions 
proposing constitutional amendments to the legislative apportionment article 
were introduced and lost in the General Assembly.^ 

One long-standing obstacle to a new legislative apportionment article was 
the restrictive amending procedure set out in the 1870 Constitution. Con- 
sequently, a reapportionment formula seemed to depend on a new formula 
for amending the Constitution. In this respect, the reapportionment interest 
was allied with the proponents of change in the judicial structure and in 
the revenue system. The result was a unified interest of considerable strength 
directed toward easing the amendment process. In 1950, the so-called 
"Gateway" Amendment was ratified as the first amendment to the state's 
Constitution in over 40 years. Subsequent to ratification of "Gateway," 
constitutional change became possible with less strength than had thereto- 
fore been the case. In the 1951 session of the General Assembly, the first 
after adoption of the Gateway Amendment, several proposed amendments 
affecting legislative apportionment were introduced. All met with failure, 
but it was obvious that there was renewed interest in the problem. 

During the period after the adjournment of the 1951 session, and prior 
to the convening of the 1953 session, several groups expressed interest in the 
problem and conducted studies of possible alternative amendments. The 
Governor, like nearly all of his predecessors in this century, included legis- 
lative reapportionment as part of his legislative program for the 1953 ses- 
sion. Several proposed reapportionment amendments were introduced dur- 
ing the session, but it was not clear at the outset which, if any, had 
administration sponsorship. Late in the session, the Governor's proposal, 
providing for a new method of apportionment, was introduced. Representa- 
tion in the House was to be based on population and in the Senate area was 
to be "the prime consideration." The amendment spelled out the number 
of districts of each House to be assigned to Chicago, to suburban Cook 

■* Proposed Constitution of 1922, Section 23. Cook County would have had 19 
of 57 Senate districts. The 153 House seats were to be apportioned on a population 
basis. Also see Debates of the Constitutional Convention (Springfield, 1922). Most 
observers do not attribute the defeat of the proposed constitution to this or any other 
single provision. 

° Illinois Legislative Council, Reapportionment in Illinois (Springfield, 1952). 

[ 8 ] 

County, and to downstate. No provision for periodic redrawing of Senate 
districts was included, but the House was to be redistricted every ten years. 
A self-enacting clause provided for reapportionment by a non-legislative 
body if the legislature failed to act. 

The passage of the amendment in the House and the Senate has been 
described elsewhere,*^ and it is sufficient to mention that it was an unexpected 
accomplishment, particularly as it markedly changed the status quo. Mem- 
bers were warned of the potential danger to their seats by the House Minor- 
ity Leader who characterized the amendment, on the floor of the House, 
as "the same thing as an employee signing his resignation." There was 
substantial opposition to the proposal in the General Assembly, and it could 
not have been passed without extensive logrolling, especially after a House 
Democratic conference was held wherein it was explained that it was not 
a party measure. Final passage was achieved, however, by comfortable ma- 
jorities in Senate and House, although it took a good deal of activity on the 
part of the Governor and meant sacrificing bills to create a State Crime 
Commission and to submit to local referendum a plan for reorganization 
of Chicago's government. The critical Democratic votes in the House were 
delivered the second time around, the party leader changing his vote from 
"Present" to "Aye" after twenty-four hours of negotiation in Springfield 
and Chicago. 

After the legislature had completed action on the amendment, an inten- 
sive campaign for ratification commenced. The Illinois Committee for Con- 
stitutional Revision, a citizen group with headquarters in Chicago that had 
pushed the adoption of the Gateway Amendment in 1950, was reactivated 
and coordinated the campaign of civic organizations throughout the state 
with special concentration, however, in Cook County." This bipartisan 
group, including farm, business, and labor organizations, received sizeable 
financial contributions and was able to retain a public relations firm and to 
employ a staff including a field organizer who worked closely with the in- 
fluential Illinois Agricultural Association in the downstate area. The com- 
mittee itself, despite its vigorous activity, could not have led a successful 
campaign without the assistance of the two political party organizations. 
Both parties in their state platforms urged the adoption of the amendment, 

" Russell E. Olson, "Illinois Faces Dedistricting," National Municipal Review, 
Vol. 43 (July 1954), pp. 343ff. ; John Bartlow Martin, "What Those Legislators Do 
to You," Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 224 (December 19 and 26, 1953), pp. 30ff. 
and 28ff. ; John E. Juergensmeyer, "Reapportionment in Illinois, 1953-1954" (Un- 
published Thesis, University of Illinois Department of Political Science, 1955). 

' Samuel W. Witwer, Jr., "The 1954 Campaign For the Passage of the Re- 
apportionment Amendment to the Illinois Constitution" (Chicago: Illinois Com- 
mittee for Constitution Revision, 1954, mimeographed). Mr. Witwer served as chair- 
man of the Committee. 

[ 9 

and party leaders, with some exceptions, actively campaigned for its 

Throughout the campaign, there was more interest and enthusiasm for 
the adoption of the amendment in Cook County than downstate. The four 
Chicago newspapers earnestly endorsed the amendment, but most down- 
state papers contained their enthusiasm, and some actually opposed the pro- 
posal. There was considerable opposition among politicians, but those fight- 
ing the amendment never achieved party organization support. Downstate 
opposition was led by the Minority (Democratic) Leader of the House of 
Representatives who, by so acting, admittedly opposed party policy. Al- 
though he traveled extensively to speak against the proposal, the opposition 
of most party workers of both parties generally took the form of "sitting out" 
the campaign. The Republican Speaker of the House, for example, persist- 
ently refused to lend the amendment his endorsement, but at no time did 
he indicate outright opposition. 

Party discipline was unevenly meted out subsequent to the ratification 
of the amendment. The House Minority Leader was not re-elected to that 
position, the necessary votes coming from a reluctant but obedient Cook 
County Democratic legislative delegation voting as a unit in caucus. The 
rationale of the Cook County leadership was that party prestige would suffer 
materially if blatant opposition to state party policy was to be ignored and 
the rebel returned to a position of influence. The personal popularity of 
the retiring leader was such as to make his ouster an impressive demonstra- 
tion of the ability of the Chicago Democratic organization to control its 
delegation to the General Assembly. On the Republican side, the campaign 
made no impression on leadership selection in 1955. Not only was the 
Speaker re-elected to that post, but the 1953 Republican Whip, who had 
openly opposed the amendment, was promoted in 1955 to the floor leader- 
ship. At least part of the reason for the differences in party action lies in 
the geographic distribution of party strength. The Democrats are strong 
in Chicago, and they are organized cohesively there under the leadership 
of the Cook County Central Committee. The Republican strength is down- 
state, but there is no comparable tight party organization in that relatively 
large area. 


The impetus for action on redistricting legislation in 1955 came not 
from any external group, public or private, but rather from the activity of 
the members of the 1953 session as sustained by the voters in the 1954 
referendum. Redistricting was immediately distinguished from other legis- 
lation — including "must" legislation, so called — by the absence of a 
multitude of groups with packaged proposals and solutions. It was further 


set apart from other legislation by the fact that there was no body of 
experience on which to fall back. The Senate Minority Leader summed up 
the situation by observing that "Not only do we in the legislature not know 
how to go about effecting a redistricting, but nobody active in Illinois poli- 
tics today has had experience with an Illinois legislative redistricting." 

During the inter-session period, there had been only sporadic efforts, in 
or out of the legislature, to undertake even tentative steps toward redistrict- 
ing. Although some Chicago leaders had requested research aides to "survey 
the reapportionment field," the request was interpreted only to mean famil- 
iarization with the necessary documentary material. Neither party officials 
nor leaders of other groups diverted their attention from the proposed 
amendment to the consideration of particular consequences of the amend- 
ment. The concentration of proponents and opponents alike was on the 
constitutional referendum; and although it was frequently alleged that "un- 
desirables" would be eliminated, only once prior to the 1955 session was the 
possible effect of redistricting on any individual legislator publicly high- 
lighted. When the amendment was ratified in November 1954, the begin- 
ning of the new session was almost at hand. 

Legislative leaders themselves had no plan, but some of them at least 
were alert to the possible importance of procedure on the final outcome. The 
principal spokesman for the Chicago Democratic organization came to the 
opening of the session with a resolution reminding everyone that the re- 
apportionment amendment had been passed by a bipartisan vote in 1953 
and that ratification "was urged on the electors by the platforms adopted 
at the 1954 State Conventions of both the Republican and the Democratic 
Parties."^ The resolution proposed the creation of a joint committee, half 
the members of which would be from each party, "to prepare and recom- 
mend to the Senate and to the House of Representatives a bill for an Act 
to reapportion and redistrict the State." Formal introduction of the resolu- 
tion was deliberately delayed while it circulated among legislative leaders. 

Beginning with the informal discussions on this resolution, it became 
apparent that redistricting its own members was to be a prerogative of each 
house. Negotiations on the resolution were held just before the opening of 
the session, and initial agreement, incorporated in the body of the resolu- 
tion, was reached on the inclusion of permission for "members of the joint 
Committee representing the Senate ... to meet separately to consider 
proposals affecting the Senate; and members of the joint Committee repre- 
senting the House ... to meet separately to consider proposals affecting 
the House." The resolution itself was lost, but no activity occurred in the 
course of the session that could be construed as an effort to overturn this 

^ Senate Joint Resolution 4, Sixty-ninth Illinois General Assembly, offered Jan- 
uary 10, 1955. 

early decision to bifurcate the problem. For all practical purposes, two 
separate measures were developed, and each chamber was to be asked to 
ratify the work of the other. 

The implications of this arrangement are important. One advantage of 
a bicameral legislature is that it increases the channels of access to the legis- 
lature. Public policy, without exception in Illinois, can originate in either 
house. Any group seeking the enactment of legislation can decide whether 
to press its case initially in the House or in the Senate. The agreement to 
make each chamber master of its own districts meant that any external 
group with an interest in the redistricting was virtually compelled to make 
a frontal attack. Any redistricting proposal had to be offered to the house 
involved. The benefit of the legislative beachhead that might otherwise 
have been secured by first bringing the proposal through the second cham- 
ber was not to be available. In short, this early decision to work as inde- 
pendent entities rather than as a single team with a twofold problem had 
the immediate effect of reducing the possible influence of external groups 
on the terms of the redistricting legislation. This method of operation was 
extended and carried to its logical conclusion in the subsequent appointment 
of subcommittees in each house. Before considering subcommittee organ- 
ization, however, it is appropriate further to consider the first decisions 
on procedure that were taken early in the session. 

With the inclusion of the authorization for each chamber's members to 
meet separately, the Democratic resolution for a joint committee had three 
major elements: 

1. Separation of House and Senate into distinct units, and the implicit 
abdication of each from the work of the other. On this, there was bipartisan 
and bicameral agreement. 

2. Equal number of members from the Senate and from the House on any 
committee concerned with reapportionment. On this, there was no disposition 
to be firm, and when the House Speaker indicated that six House members 
would not be an adequate number, no opposition was apparent. Committee 
size, per se, could not be an issue unless there was to be a joint committee on 
which each member had a full vote. Once it was agreed that even if a formal 
joint committee was created, the House and the Senate would work independ- 
ently, the number of committee members from each chamber was of no 

3. Equal strength for the Democrats on any reapportionment committee 
despite the Republican majorities in House and Senate. On this, the Republi- 
can leadership was at first in doubt. The close (78-74) party division in the 
House made the proposals seem more reasonable in that chamber than in the 
Senate where the Republicans held their usual overwhelming majority (32-19). 
On the other hand, the Democrats seized the advantage by alleging the failure 
to give them equal strength would be to admit that the redistricting would be 
used for partisan advantage, a characterization that the majority was seeking 


to avoid. Ultimately, Senate Republicans fell back on the "regular order" as 
their line of defense and insisted on using the standing Committee on Ap- 
portionment and Elections as the agency for initial construction of Senate re- 
districting. This gave the Republicans a 10-6 advantage, the potency of which 
was to be vitiated by the subcommittee arrangements established at an initial 
meeting of the Apportionment and Elections Committee. 

When it became apparent that a single formula would not satisfy both 
chambers, the joint committee idea was abandoned. However, a hearing 
was subsequently demanded on the resolution in order to permit a Demo- 
cratic record of "non-partisan efforts toward reapportionment" to be estab- 
lished. At the early legislative stage, it was by no means certain that the 
General Assembly would agree on a redistricting bill, and if it became 
necessary to appoint a redistricting commission, Democratic strategy re- 
quired that no charge of non-cooperation lie against the party. 

By the beginning of the second week of the session, it became plain that 
agreement would not be reached in support of the joint committee proposal. 
Its sponsor thereupon formally introduced his resolution, for the record, 
having delayed introduction while there was some hope of agreement which 
would have been reflected in bipartisan sponsorship. On that same day, 
the House adopted a resolution, offered with bipartisan sponsorship, creat- 
ing a special committee of the House to consider only the House apportion- 
ment.^ The twelve-member committee, to which were appointed both pro- 
ponents and opponents of the reapportionment amendment, was composed 
of six members of each party and was to report back to the House by 
March 15 — a date less than halfway through the customary six month 
legislative session. The desirability of quick action on reapportionment legis- 
lation was encouraged by the House Speaker who had said publicly that he 
thought nothing significant could be accomplished by the General Assembly 
until the reapportionment had been completed. Quick consideration and a 
March 15 report were not achieved, however, and although House districts 
were pretty well settled by early May, it was late May before there was 
sufficient agreement in both chambers so that legislation could be intro- 
duced. The Governor did not sign the reapportionment bill until June 29, 
two days before the deadline provided in the 1953 constitutional amend- 

The Senate majority leadership rejected the hypothesis that an equi- 
partisan group would have to work on reapportionment to guarantee its 
success. The reapportionment work was assigned to its standing Committee 

° House Resolution 18, Sixty-ninth Illinois General Assembly, offered January 
10, 1955. 


on Apportionment and Elections without any extraordinan* action on the 
part of the Senate. ^° 

Balkanization was implicitly adopted as a technique for getting redis- 
tricting lines drawn when the House special committee and Senate standing 
committee split themselves into subcommittees. The House committee was 
divided into three subcommittees — one to consider Chicago, one for the 
Cook County suburbs, and the third for the downstate area. These three 
subcommittee assignments coincided with the separate area divisions as set 
out in the constitutional amendment. The subcommittees were composed of 
four, two, and six members respectively, and each subcommittee had equal 
party membership. All the members of each of the subcommittees were 
representatives of the area of concern of their subcommittee. The special 
problem of Chicago resulted in a further breakdown of that subcommittee 
into three groups to cover north, west, and south sides. A House member 
who was not a member of the Reapportionment Committee was drafted to 
work on the complex problems of Chicago's South Side. 

The subcommittee question posed certain difficulties for the Senate 
Elections Committee despite the voluntary- withdrawal of one downstate Re- 
publican. If subcommittees were created to follow the area divisions estab- 
lished in the Constitution and if each subcommittee was composed of mem- 
bers residing in the area involved, the Democrats would have a four to one 
majority in the Chicago subcommittee, there would be only Republicans 
on the Cook County suburbs subcommittee, and the downstate subcommit- 
tee would be oversized with eight Republicans and two Democrats. The 
alternatives were (1) to ignore residence as a factor in constituting sub- 
committees, and to create three five-men subcommittees, each composed of 
three Republicans and two Democrats, a solution which would be consist- 
ent with the original use of the standing committee, or (2) to drop the 
constitutional area divisions as the basis for subcommittee responsibility and 
to draw new area divisions which would permit the appointment of sub- 
committee personnel who resided in the area assigned to them. 

The final decision was to combine these possibilities. Chicago, Cook 
County outside of Chicago, and downstate were abandoned as potential 
subjects of individual subcommittee study; and in lieu thereof all of Cook 
County was assigned to one subcommittee, all of the northern portion of the 
stale to a second subcommittee, and all of the southern half of the state 
to a third subcommittee. Each subcommittee was composed of three Repub- 
lican Senators and two Democratic Senators. Subcommittee No. 1, with 
responsibility for all of Cook County — which meant drawing 18 districts 

" The assignment to the committee of the job of constructing a bill was unusual. 
Standing committees in the Illinois General Assembly normally require a bill to be 
before them for consideration. See Gove and Steiner, op. cit., p. 23. 


in Chicago and 6 in the suburbs outside Chicago — was composed of two 
Chicago Democrats, one Republican whose district lay entirely in the sub- 
urbs, one Republican whose district lay almost completely in the suburbs, 
and one "non-resident" Republican from adjacent Lake County. The 
northern Illinois group included three Republicans from northern Illinois, 
and two Chicago Democrats. The southern Illinois subcommittee was com- 
posed of three Republicans and two Democrats, and unlike the other sub- 
committees, all members represented districts within the subcommittee's 
area of concern. For this reason, the southern group was the only one of 
the three to function as a unit. 

Instantly upon adjournment of the meeting at which subcommittee ar- 
rangements and appointments were concluded, the Cook County subcom- 
mittee agreed informally that the two Chicago Democratic members would 
assume exclusive responsibility for the Chicago redistricting and that the 
two Cook County suburban Republican members would assume exclusive 
responsibility for the suburban districting. The majority members of the 
northern Illinois subcommittee proposed a unified effort, but the Chicago 
Democrats appointed to that subcommittee declined to participate, not out 
of a spirit of non-cooperation, but rather out of a lack of interest. "They 
asked me to come to a meeting," said one Democratic subcommittee mem- 
ber who has been a leader in Chicago Democratic politics for twenty-five 
years, "but I told them that there hasn't been a Democratic district in that 
area for forty years, so why should I waste my time." 


The special House committee of twelve represented only eight per cent 
of the House membership, and thus was legitimately concerned about in- 
volving enough members to insure a hard core of support for its ultimate 
recommendations. Accordingly, the House Reapportionment Committee, by 
letter, invited each House member to participate in the construction of his 
or her own district by delivering boundary suggestions to the appropriate 
subcommittee chairman. Whether this formality encouraged otherwise reti- 
cent members to make suggestions is problematical. It did serve to publicize 
the subcommittee arrangements and to emphasize the division of responsi- 
bility by area. 

The Senate committee operated less formally. Almost one-third of the 
total membership of the Senate served on the Elections Committee and thus 
had formal access to the redistricting activity. The committee sent out no 
notices, but repeatedly urged each member of the Senate to discuss pro- 
posed maps from the point of view of his district. These announcements 
were made in committee meetings, in caucus, and on the floor of the Senate. 
Illustrative of the responses is the verbal instruction given by a Chicago 


Senator to a colleague who was en route to the first meeting of the Chicago 
subcommittee {i.e., the informal Chicago subcommittee of the formal Cook 
County subcommittee), "Do anything within reason, but don't take my 
district across the (Chicago) River." 

From the beginning, all the legislative committees involved in redistrict- 
ing placed primary consideration on people, notably sitting Senators and 
Representatives, rather than on abstractions like area, population, contiguity, 
or ethnic characteristics. Influential members all agreed that there was no 
point in chopping out districts that satisfied the constitutional requirement, 
but did not satisfy the members, if it was possible to satisfy both the mem- 
bers and the Constitution. There were innumerable combinations that would 
satisfy the Constitution, and the more practical approach was to try to 
satisfy the members first. The committees were unwilling to make a public 
announcement of their interest in preserving the seats of incumbent legisla- 
tors, and the House group promptly found itself at odds with some non- 
legislative organizations which claimed an interest in reapportionment. 

The clash became inevitable when the Illinois Committee for Constitu- 
tional Revision publicized, at the very beginning of the legislative session, 
a set of "principles of reapportionment" and set aside money to support an 
observer to keep the public informed of legislative adherence to these 
principles : 

1. For the Senate, emphasis should be on area, but natural communities 
as well as population should be considered in addition to area. 

2. For the House, districts should follow natural community lines rather 
than political boundaries, such as wards. 

3. In multi-county districts, grouping of counties to encourage domination 
by one county should be avoided. 

4. A fair method should be devised to decide which Senators would be 
assigned even numbered districts (and thus face re-election in 1956), and 
which would be assigned odd numbered districts (where the term would run 
until 1958). 

When the Committee for Constitutional Revision observer appeared at 
a House committee meeting, the committee voted unanimously to exclude 
him and all others and to go into executive sessions. The committee chair- 
man, an original sponsor of the reapportionment amendment, defended 
executive sessions with the assertion that they would spare the legislators 
"embarrassment" • — almost a public admission of the practical need to con- 
sider people first and abstractions second. He said: 

That committee [the I.C.C.R.] had nothing to do with drafting the amend- 
ment. We're the engineering department. They were only the sales department, 
and neither they nor newspaper reporters have a right to hear our family 

" Chicago Sun-Times, February 6, 1955. 


The tone of the House approach was set by the de facto leader of the 
Democratic minority who said on the floor, "I don't think it's up to the 
committee on constitutional revision or any newspaper to redistrict the state. 
It's up to the legislature, according to the mandate of the people."^- Further 
support came from the Chicago Republican who was working on the re- 
districting of Chicago's South Side: "[The Committee on Constitutional 
Revision is] getting too big for their britches if they think they have a 
monopoly on understanding reapportionment."^^ 

Perhaps the most illuminating, and surely the most accurate evaluation 

of the legislative interest came from a House member who was subsequently 

to be the architect of the only change in a Senate district achieved over the 

initial objection of the Senate subcommittee concerned: 

Outsiders shouldn't stick their noses in and tell this committee ho\v to 
reapportion the state . . . Any man in this legislature who doesn't fight for 
his own district is a particular damn fool. I'm not for too many sitting mem- 
bers running against each other if we can work it out." 

The furor subsided, and working meetings were thereafter held in secret. 

The Senate committee avoided similar problems by confining the bus- 
iness of plenary committee meetings almost exclusively to submission and 
acceptance of subcommittee reports. The subcommittees worked behind 
closed doors from the first. Active disputes were aired not in the committee 
room but most frequently in party caucus. Indeed, final acceptance of Chi- 
cago Senate districts was secured, for all practical purposes, not in the com- 
mittee and not on the floor, but in the Democratic caucus. Here the roll 
was finally called on two freshmen Democratic Senators who could not be 
accommodated, and here a Negro Senator was accommodated when inade- 
quate Negro representation became a major source of trouble. 

At no point prior to the publication of tentative maps by Senate and 
House committees was there any serious effort by a non-legislative group to 
propose a complete scheme of redistricting. This fact was subsequently high- 
lighted by some legislators who considered it an acknowledgment by non- 
legislative groups of their interest as peripheral and of the legislative interest 
as primary. As promptly as one week after the House committee's executive 
session fuss, a letter was read to the House from the chairman of the Con- 
stitutional Revision Committee denying any intent to do more than 
"inform" : 

It is our hope that the members of the General Assembly will clearly 

recognize our purposes and will not view the information activities, which we 

will definitely continue to pursue, as constituting an interference with the 

General Assembly or a criticism of its efforts.^"" 

" Chicago Tribune, February 2, 1955. 
" Ibid. 

" Chicago Sun-Times, February 6, 1955. 
"Chicago Tribune, Febraury 9, 1955. 


The following week, the House committee threw open its doors and 
invited organizations and individuals favoring reapportionment to tell their 
views on how districts should be established. The meeting was poorly at- 
tended and lasted about twenty minutes. Representatives of the Illinois 
Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Citizens of Greater Chicago, and the 
Independent Voters of Illinois appeared formally. Each was asked by the 
Majority Whip and others if his organization had a specific map for dis- 
cussion; each said they had none but were interested in following develop- 
ments. A representative of the Illinois Association of Supervisors and County 
Commissioners, who did not appear at the open meeting, arranged to have 
some pencil sketches presented for committee consideration. Spokesmen for 
the League of Women Voters and the Women's Church Council of Illinois, 
although present, made no official record of their attendance. Neither group 
had a map to offer for consideration. 

Although the Senate Elections Committee did not especially publicize 
any early meetings as a "hearing," there was never any indication that 
group spokesmen would be either unwelcome or muzzled at the full com- 
mittee sessions. Only once — and then in the matter of a single district — 
before the committee met to consider the redistricting bill as actually intro- 
duced in the Senate did a non-legislative group make any substantive pres- 
entation. Several such groups affirmed explicitly that they considered actual 
delineation of districts to be a legislative function. At the hearing on the 
bill as introduced, only the representative of the Independent Voters of 
Illinois offered a map; and he explained, when questioned, that his group 
had not offered the map sooner because it was w-aiting to see what the legis- 
lature would suggest. At a Chicago meeting of the Illinois Committee for 
Constitutional Revision held midway through the session, its chairman 
emphasized to the representatives of the 60 organizations present that the 
committee had drawn no maps. 

The fact that virtually no non-legislative group offered a proposed map 
seems attributable to two things. First, many of these groups came to a 
conscious decision that their interest in redistricting simply did not merit 
the expenditure of time, talent, and money involved in preparing a specific 
plan. Second, there was a tendency to believe that anybody with a map was 
espousing a particular interest, and these groups all denied any such intent. 
Of course, they later did espouse the interest of one Chicago group over that 
of another by urging a change in a Chicago district as proposed by the 
House Chicago subcommittee. 

One partial redistricting plan was publicized early in the session before 
any tentative proposals were oflFered by the legislative committees. This 
plan, offered by the Better Government Association, a private, relatively 
quiescent civic group in Chicago, covered only Chicago and suburban Cook 


County districts. Although the newspapers reproduced the Association maps, 
the proposals never made any impact in Springfield. Indeed, if they had not 
been offered before the legislators themselves started making redistricting 
news, it appears doubtful that they would have achieved any measure of 

One Better Government Association map proposed twenty-three House 
districts in Chicago with a maximum population variation of 5,500 and 
eighteen Senate districts in Chicago with a maximum population variation 
of 4,220. In other words, as far as the constitutional mandate regarding 
population and area was concerned, the Better Government Association 
Senate map was a better House map than the House map itself.^^ In addi- 
tion, one proposed suburban House district was discontinuous, and therefore 
in violation of the constitutional stipulation that districts be compact and 
contiguous. The constitutional requirement that area be a prime considera- 
tion in the Senate districts was apparently ignored in the Better Government 
version on the unlikely theory that this need not apply to a densely popu- 
lated area. In turn, the proposals were eliminated from serious legislative 
consideration. A Chicago House member was to inform his colleagues later 
in the session that the Better Government Association map was meant only 
to be a "starting point." 

Downstate maps for both Senate and House were released by the legis- 
lative committees concerned on a "trial balloon" basis early in April. No 
special stir was created either among members or around the state by their 
publication, and the subcommittees involved assumed that no major over- 
hauls would be necessary. In order to reduce the total downstate House 
representation from 96 to 87, as many as six incumbents were thrown to- 
gether in one district, and several new districts had five incumbents. A 
minor but protracted dispute did grow out of controversy regarding the 
location of a single county which was detached from its existing district 
and added to a neighboring House district. An incumbent Representative 
from the county in question took a dim view of his future under these con- 
ditions and devoted considerable effort to attempts to improve his situation 
either by a change in the House districting or by the construction of a Sen- 
ate district from which he might make a race for that body. Downstate Sen- 
ate districts, increased in number from 32 to 34, had no two sitting Senators 
in the same district under the subcommittees' plans. Cook County suburban 
districts, increased to provide for six Senators rather than two, and for 
twenty-one Representatives rather than five, were easily agreed upon, the 

^^ The Better Government Association proposals are discussed in some detail in 
David R. Gray, 'The Making of the Illinois Reapportionment Act, 1955" (Unpub- 
lished Thesis, University of Illinois, Department of Political Science, 1955). 


Democrats having been satisfied that what little strength they hold in the 
suburbs was not gerrymandered. 

Chicago districts presented a more complex problem. It should be under- 
stood that the date established by state statute for holding the Chicago 
mayoralty election habitually delays the effective beginning of every second 
regular legislative session until after the first week in April. In 1955, the 
mayoralty election was particularly hard fought. Legislators serving on both 
House and Senate Chicago redistricting subcommittees gave first priority to 
precinct, ward, and city political activity related to the election and could 
not devote adequate time to the redistricting question. 

Beyond the limitations of time and attention, however, the character 
of the particular election itself affected the redistricting. It was of con- 
siderable importance to each candidate that local precinct and ward organ- 
izations function with maximum efficiency and enthusiasm. Proposals for 
redistricting would inevitably dissatisfy some members, and a dissatisfied 
member would surely appeal to the candidate to exert influence for change. 
Because a first principle of the reapportionment committees was to avoid 
disturbing sitting members whenever possible, disaffected members could 
not have been satisfied without provoking disaffection elsewhere. Disaffec- 
tion could show on Election Day. The safest course was to avoid the publi- 
cizing of maps until after the election. This was especially important for 
the Democratic candidate because as chairman of the Cook County Demo- 
cratic Committee, he held a position of considerable influence in the party 
organization. The Republican candidate, a recent apostate from the Demo- 
cratic party, had no standing with the Republican hierarchy and, if neces- 
sary, could have pleaded that his influence was inadequate to cover any 
part of the reapportionment situation. With the Democrats in total control 
of the Chicago Senate subcommittee and with equal representation on the 
Chicago House subcommittee, no problem was involved in postponing the 
Chicago work until after April 5. The Mayor-elect could then make any 
decisions he was called upon to make without the possibility of discontent 
being reflected in stay-at-home votes that might otherwise have been brought 
to the polls. 

Redistricting proposals for Chicago House districts were released a week 
after the election and became the object of intense non-legislative opposi- 
tion. The districts in dispute would have divided Chicago's West Side into 
three long, narrow "bowling alley" shaped areas and cut the presumably 
homogeneous Austin area so that it would have had no certain representa- 
tion. The "bowling alley" districts would obviously have been of maximum 
advantage to incumbent legislators of the so-called West Side bloc, a biparti- 
san group from distinctly over-represented districts whose elimination had 
been virtually promised by reapportionment supporters. There seems to be 


no doubt that this map was offered as a "trial balloon," or as one member 
of the committee put it, "something which could be tested for reaction 
among press, civic groups, and legislators." This plan would have preserved 
the seats of a maximum number of incumbents, however, and it is therefore 
not surprising that first criticisms came from outside the General Assembly. 
Indeed, one legislator who was later to be a leader in revising the map, was 
quoted at first as saying that Austin area voters would have a chance to 
elect some legislators from the West Side districts. ^^ Both the Governor and 
the Mayor of Chicago expressed emphatic disapproval, however. 

The ultimate revision of the proposed West Side House districts is the 
only illustration of the triumph of non-legislative groups without a deter- 
mined legislative spokesman over an expressed legislative preference. The 
success of the Illinois Committee for Constitutional Revision and of the 
Chicago newspapers in effecting a change cannot be understood, however, 
without understanding, first, the long history of the West Side group in 
jumping party lines, and second, the need for the new Chicago administra- 
tion (inaugurated April 20) to secure a favorable press and civic opinion 
in contrast to the unfavorable publicity it had received throughout the cam- 
paign. The new mayor was determined to seek extensive permissive taxing 
powers for Chicago. Downstate legislative votes for such a program could 
only be secured by appropriate logrolling coupled with an opportunity for 
downstaters to explain themselves at home by citing some evidence of Chi- 
cago "reform." 

In short, the "bowling alley" districts were unveiled at a time when the 
Chicago political leadership needed both dependability and "respectability." 
The Mayor denounced the West Side arrangement — and, incidentally, was 
rewarded with his first good press of the year — thereby leaving Chicago 
Republicans stranded. The latter organization had been at war with the 
West Side group for months. Chicago Republican members of the redistrict- 
ing committee hastily came to the support of Austin as deserving representa- 
tion of its own. A special meeting of the Chicago subcommittee was held the 
last week in April. Two competing plans for revision of the West Side dis- 
tricts were offered, one by the House Majority Whip, one by the (Republi- 
can) member usually identified as the leader of the West Side bloc. The 
latter plan was adopted, both Democratic members of the subcommittee 
voting with the West Side man.^^ The revised plan was offered to the House 
by its Democratic leader who was himself both a resident of one of the 
districts in dispute and a member of the Chicago subcommittee, although 
not a member of the West Side bloc. 

"Chicago Tribune, April 14, 1955. 

" "Minutes of the Chicago Subcommittee Meeting on Reapportionment Pursuant 
to House Resolution 18," April 27, 1955, (typewritten). 


The change from the districts as originally proposed has been properly 
described as resulting from a "pincers" movement. The West Side legisla- 
tive group, lacking a dependable tie to either party because of its historic 
willingness to jump party lines, was abandoned despite the fact that its 
members were not personally unpopular in the legislature. The current needs 
of the Democratic organization in Chicago and the defensive tactics of the 
state Republican organization pressed in from opposite sides and changed 
the "bowling alleys" into more nearly square units. The Chicago subcom- 
mittee itself incorporated the adjustment in its proposal. Despite the dispute, 
a bill had not yet been formally drafted. 

The fixing of Chicago Senate districts was also preceded by extended 
controversy, a controversy in which the Governor of Illinois played much 
the same kind of determining role as did the Mayor of Chicago in the 
House districting dispute. While the House dispute was still active, the Sen- 
ate Chicago subcommittee released its proposal for redistricting the city. 
The proposal was plainly drawn to suit the needs and demands of the 
seventeen sitting Chicago Democrats. Whereas the Constitution had directed 
that area was to be of "prime consideration," the subcommittee offered dis- 
tricts ranging from less than six square miles to twenty-three square miles. 
It is perhaps significant that the map was made public during a week when 
the Democratic leader of the Senate was not in Springfield. As a conse- 
quence there was no official party comment on the map, a fact that made it 
easier to make subsequent adjustments. 

These Chicago "trial balloon" districts represented sitting members' con- 
ceptions of a convenient reapportionment. Their conceptions conflicted 
sharply with the views of the "outs," and an immediate protest from the 
Republican organization greeted the publication of the Chicago map. Among 
the vociferous opponents were former Republican Senators whose chances 
for a comeback would have been seriously damaged by the proposals ad- 
vanced by the Democrats. Although no overt opposition was forthcoming 
from members themselves, adoption of the Democratic drafted proposal 
posed a threat to the Republican state organization, and Republican leader- 
ship reacted accordingly. The Republican Governor promptly denounced 
the plan and hinted a veto of a reapportionment bill that retained the fea- 
tures of the disputed maps, noting that "It would be futile to sign some- 
thing the courts would throw out."^^ He was apparently supported by Chi- 
cago's new Democratic Mayor who announced himself in favor of "compact 
districts to give equal representation to all areas," a statement generally re- 
garded as critical of the Chicago maps originally offered in both houses. 

Although the Mayor and the Governor took exception to initial Chicago 

"Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1955. 


reapportionment plans in both houses, the Mayor, a Democrat, concentrated 
his attack on the West Side gerrymander, where the seats at stake were held 
principally by Republicans, while the Governor, a Republican, emphasized 
the disparity in size in the projected Senate districts where the seats were 
held by Democrats. ^° One Chicago newspaper, noting this editorially, re- 
gretted that each had not expanded his objection to cover both situations 
but concluded that although they were working "from different political 
directions," the two officials could still carry out the intent of the amend- 
ment "even if their politics impose certain restraints on their tongues. "^^ 

The formal Republican answer to the Chicago Senate plan was devel- 
oped by two former Republican Senators from Chicago who had been de- 
feated in the 1954 election. Their map threw two or more sitting Demo- 
cratic Senators into the same district in six cases. Two other sitting 
Democrats would face certain defeat in the heavy Republican areas assigned 
them. The Democratic stalwart who had been insistent with fellow Demo- 
crats that his district not cross the Chicago River would have crossed the 
river under the Republican proposal. Senate Republicans, in caucus, adopted 
the plan which was promptly characterized as an "atrocity" by the Demo- 
cratic leader. 

The participation of former members of the Senate on the Republican 
side was virtually a matter of necessity. No Republican represented a Chi- 
cago district in the Senate in 1955. Consequently, that party's leaders had 
no easy access in the Senate either to expert opinion on Democratic pro- 
posals or to the development of counter-proposals. Ultimately, not only 
were the ex-Senators used, but a Cook County Republican Central Com- 
mittee leader came down from Chicago to lend a knowing hand. 

When the legislature assembled next after the publication of the Re- 
publican map, the Senate Democratic leader immediately threw that cham- 
ber into the Illinois version of a filibuster — a demand for strict compli- 
ance with the rule requiring the reading of the Journal of the previous legis- 
lative day and with the constitutional requirement that bills be read in full. 
The extraordinary feature of the "filibuster" was that no bill was before 
the Senate or even before the House. It was a filibuster against the terms 
of a bill that had not yet been introduced in either chamber, and, in fact, 
had not yet been drafted in bill form. Nevertheless, the maneuver was suc- 
cessful in making the point that the redistricting would have to conform 
to an agreed pattern, that the 31 Republican Senators from outside Chi- 
cago would not be permitted to impose a map on the 17 Democratic Sen- 
ators from Chicago. Negotiations commenced involving the Senate leaders 

Chicago Tribune, April 19, 1955. 
Chicago Sun-Times, April 21, 1955. 


of each party and members of the original Cook County subcommittee of 
the Elections Committee, thereby ending the arrangement wherein Chicago 
had been the exclusive concern of the Chicago (Democratic) members of 
the subcommittee. 

An initial understanding was reached giving the Republicans four dis- 
tricts heavily weighted with Republican voters, establishing three "doubtful" 
districts, and retaining eleven "safe" Democratic districts. The major 
problem to which the conferees devoted themsleves was how to draw the 
lines to achieve this result with minimum damage to Senate colleagues. The 
Majority Leader suggested early in the discussions that both parties had 
been "selfish" in the first exchange of maps. "The whole trouble was that 
they were trying to take care of certain parties on both sides. Now we are 
trying to be fair on both sides." The Minority Leader observed a coopera- 
tive spirit: "Both Republican and Democratic Senators have evidenced a 
spirit of reasonableness to attain a solution."-- Nevertheless, the filibuster 
continued — with varying degrees of intensity — throughout the negotiations. 

It became evident as these negotiations continued that the major impedi- 
ment to a solution was the unwillingness of some of the sitting Democrats 
to accept the inevitable and agree to districts that were preponderantly Re- 
publican. Ultimately, the Democratic leadership called the roll in caucus 
and secured approval for a compromise map over the continued objection 
of two freshmen Senators whose new districts would probably elect Republi- 
cans at the earliest opportunity. In only two instances, however, was it neces- 
sary to place sitting members in the same new district. One of these was by 
agreement, and the other was without objection from the members 

Republican Senators' opposition to the Democratic proposals consist- 
ently was based on the argument that the Democratic plans would not sat- 
isfy the constitutional mandate that area be the prime consideration. The 
area ratio for Chicago's 18 new Senatorial districts would be 11.9 square 
miles. The majority tended to insist that districts below nine square miles 
would be impossible to defend and that the consequences of a declaration 
of unconstitutionality could not be chanced in order to accommodate a few 

"St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 4, 1955. 

"' Three members were placed in the downtown Loop district. One, for whom 
the other two initially announced they would step aside, is senior in years and has 
from time to time suffered from illnesses which have kept him away from Springfield. 
A second is a young party regular, and the third, a veteran, has expressed interest 
in a congressional seat now occupied by an eighty-one year old Democrat. In fact, 
it was the third man who was subsequently renominated. 

Two freshmen Democrats were thrown together in a district on the Northwest 
Side of Chicago. Both were sponsored by very influential members of the Chicago 
Democratic organization. Another job could be found for either man without creating 
any party problem. 


of the sitting Democrats. Those few Democrats, however, persisted in their 
unwilHngness to give in. At one point, one of them defended a district he 
would have accepted by arguing that a park district survey showed its total 
area to be 7.556 miles rather than the 7.35 miles found by legislative re- 
searchers.^"* When the Republicans and the minority Democrats both stood 
pat, the Democratic leader pushed each side to its outer limit, appraised the 
situation realistically, gave his approval to the Republican outer limit, and 
then compelled acceptance of the plan by the Democrats. Plainly the al- 
ternatives were a Republican modification of the Democrats' proposals or 
no bill at all. The latter result would have created considerable unfavorable 
public opinion for the Chicago Democratic organization and the likely loss 
of the ambitious program the city was presenting for new revenue. 

The Illinois Committee for Constitutional Revision condemned the Chi- 
cago Senate map as "gerrymandering and political expediency, [which] fails 
to carry out the provision and intent of the Blue Ballot amendment." The 
Committee discovered that the map was drawn to "do the least violence to 
the incumbent senators."-^ Similar dissatisfaction was expressed by the 
Chicago press: 

But the Senate map for Chicago, which once set up cannot be changed, 
has been drawn with an eye to poHtical advantages for incumbent senators 
rather than with consideration for equity and fairness to the voters.^" 

The so-called compromise on reapportionment of Chicago Senatorial dis- 
tricts is an attempt by the Democrats to obtain two more seats than they are 
entitled to under the constitution. . . . 

The maneuvering of the Democrats is understandable. The disposition of 
the Republican leaders in the legislature to deal with them passes understand- 
ing. What they are compromising is not a couple of Senate seats, but the con- 
stitutionality of the whole remap plan. This is suicidal." 

If the proposed redistricting is adopted, the area of the city with the low- 
est educational standards, the area that suffers most from blight and is losing 
population to the outskirts, the area of gang politics and syndicate gambling 
influence, will be given a disproportionate voice in the affairs of the state for 
as far in the future as anyone can see."* 

The informal limits on reapportionment were stretched to the extremes, 
however, and the formal limits were sufficiently imprecise that civic group 
and press complaints that these formal limits were being violated was wasted 
effort. Several members still indicated dissatisfaction with the areas assigned 
to them by the various subcommittees and committees involved, but the 
resolution of the Chicago situation encouraged legislative leaders to believe 

"Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1955. 
''Chicago Sun-Times, May 20, 1955. 
'Ubid., June 6, 1955. 
"' Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1955. 
''Ibid., May 21, 1955. 


that the redistricting could be forced through as agreed upon in committee. 
Consequently, after three months of activity, instructions were issued to pre- 
pare a bill for introduction. The problem now became one of determining 
whether a majority of members would hold firm long enough to proceed 
with enactment of a bill. As it developed, there were rumblings in each 


Republican and Democratic leaders agreed that the redistricting legisla- 
tion should not be permitted to shuffle through the legislature subject to all 
the parliamentary maneuvering that can entrap an ordinary bill. When 
agreement on substance was reached, it was deemed important to cut the 
formalities to the bone. Accordingly, the way was cleared in a manner 
probably unprecedented in Illinois legislative history. While the General 
Assembly was in week-end recess, a number was assigned to a bill which 
had not yet been introduced and the "bill" was printed. The redistricting 
bill was formally introduced on May 24, and House members found printed 
copies of the bill on their desks that same morning. Word circulated on the 
floor that all amendments would be disposed of on second reading the fol- 
lowing day and that House passage was scheduled for the third day. It was 
also an open secret that leaders were going to try to beat all amendments 
lest the adoption of one change set off a chain reaction that would reopen 
too many problem situations. According to one member of the House special 
committee : 

Our plan is to vote down all amendments. If we open it up for one, every- 
body else will want the same consideration. We just can't please everybody.^^ 

The timetable established by the House leadership prevailed, although 
the absence of unanimity became evident at once when objection was made 
to advancing the bill to second reading without reference to committee. The 
five objectors were overruled by 121 of their colleagues who were in accord 
on the desirability of getting to the showdown, although not necessarily in 
accord on the particulars of the measure. General debate in Committee of 
the Whole, a substitute for reference to a standing committee, consumed 
only three and one-half hours. No non-legislators were heard. Members of 
the special committee assured the House that every effort had been made 
to help sitting members. A few questions were asked, but only a handful of 
disaffected members — notably the Negro group — made plain their dis- 

Sixteen amendments were offered to the bill on second reading. Six of 
the proposed changes had so little support that their sponsors were content 
to let them be lost by voice votes. Of the remaining ten amendments, nine 

'"Chicago Daily News, May 24, 1955. 


were defeated, the strength of the proponents varying from 26 to 58 votes, 
that of the opponents varying from 91 to 68 votes. 

A clear illustration of legislative logrolling is seen in even a superficial 
analysis of the votes cast in support of the proposed amendments. The least 
strength that was developed for any amendment was 26 votes. These 26 mem- 
bers, voting in roll calls on nine proposals to overturn the recommendations 
of the special committee, had a total of 234 votes to cast for or against 
adoption of the committee plan. In fact, only seven votes of the 234 were 
cast in favor of upholding the committee recommendations. In 202 cases 
out of the 234 opportunities, this group voted to overrule the committee, 
while members did not respond to their names in 25 instances. The cohesion 
was substantially unchanged irrespective of the subject of the amendment 
and irrespective of the party affiliation of the sponsor. Twenty-one of the 26 
dissidents were downstaters. Five came from Chicago districts. Fifteen were 
Democrats; eleven. Republicans. The 26 members involved were not com- 
mitted to oppose all reapportionment, but they felt themselves adversely 
affected by this reapportionment and took a sympathetic interest in each 
other's complaints. 

Despite the determination of House leaders to oppose any change in the 
committee bill, one amendment — involving a Senate district — was adopted 
on the House floor. Its sponsor was the House member who had battled for 
months in an effort to achieve a change in both House and Senate com- 
mittee proposals for his county. After the House stood firmly behind its own 
committee's recommendation, rejecting a proposed amendment to the 
House districting by 80 to 39, it became receptive to the renewed attempt 
to make some alteration in the projected Senate district. The House vote to 
adopt the amendment ■ — a watered down version of what its sponsor had 
originally urged — was a kind of consolation prize which the House could 
well afford to award since no other House member was now involved, and 
the sitting Senators concerned had indicated that they held no strong con- 
victions on the subject. 

The fact that the Negro members of the House were almost solidly 
lined up with the minority on all the amendment roll calls presaged ultimate 
trouble. Nevertheless, the House beat down, 68-39, an amendment offered 
by a Negro member that would have revised the Chicago Senate districting. 
The revision would have been advantageous to the city's colored population 
which, under the committee proposal, appeared to be held to a single Sen- 
ator. The amendment proposed in the House was the first step in reminding 
the legislature that Chicago Negro leaders feel that social integration has 
not yet been achieved and that the Negro population is insistent on Negro 


representation reasonably proportionate to the total Negro strength in the 
community. ^° 

There seems to be no question but that the unusual requirement that 
area be a "prime consideration" in drawing Senate districts served to turn 
public attention away from ethnic and religious considerations. The litera- 
ture of the Illinois Committee for Constitutional Revision and that of the 
League of Women Voters and the Better Government Association was silent 
on the issue of appropriate representation for Chicago's increasing Negro 
population. The plethora of editorial advice offered the reapportionment 
draftsmen included no suggestions on this point. It would appear that the 
problems of meeting the area requirements, meeting reasonable population 
requirements, satisfying sitting Senators, and retaining a balance in relative 
party strength weighed so heavily that the committee shook off this further 

House passage of the reapportionment bill was easily achieved, 130-15, 
on the second day following formal introduction which is the minimum 
time allowable under the Illinois Constitution. An attempt on the part of 
a discontented member to stall passage by demanding that the bill be read in 
full had no eflfect. Negro members generally agreed, in the course of ex- 
plaining their votes, that the Chicago Negro population was being unfairly 
treated, one member going so far as to allege that the bill provided for "Jim 
Crow senatorial districts on the South Side." 

Senate activity was more leisurely and more fiery. The reapportionment 
bill was formally referred to the Committee on Elections and Apportion- 
ment, and the non-legislative objectors were given a chance to be heard. 
In succession, spokesmen for the League of Women Voters, the Committee 
for Constitutional Revision, the Chicago Board of the National Association 

^ Chicago politicians should have been able to anticipate this reaction. In Novem- 
ber 1954, the Report of the Chicago Home Rule Commission recommended certain 
changes in the size and composition of the Chicago City Council — changes which 
did not guarantee Negro representation. The Negro member of the Commission dis- 
sented, saying, in part: 

Despite the great progress of recent years, the Negro still is in an extremely 
disadvantageous position in the city. As long as discrimination based on color 
persists as rigidly as it does today, the Negro minority feels the need of political 
representatives with deep convictions on the principle of equal opportunities for 
all citizens. Furthermore, such representatives are expected to express the legiti- 
mate aspirations of minority groups. 

It is grievous that the issue of minority-group representation should have to 
be raised when conscientious efforts are being made here to improve the quality 
and procedures of local government. These objections have validity under the 
present racial patterns existing in the city of Chicago today. Chicago Home Rule 
Commission, Chicago's Government (Chicago, 1954), pp. 74f. 


for the Advancement of Colored People, the Citizens of Greater Chicago, 
the Independent Voters of Illinois, and the Chicago City Club appeared to 
protest the Chicago Senate redistricting. The League, the Constitutional 
Revision Committee, the Citizens of Greater Chicago, the City Club, and 
the Independent Voters of Illinois were generally opposed to the obvious 
absence of any objective standard in the delineation of these districts. Sen- 
ators of both parties closed ranks against the outsiders. The hearing did 
not serve to open for reconsideration any decisions made by the committee. 

The Negro group continued to view the Chicago districts with consider- 
able dismay. Its spokesman at the hearing, a one-time candidate for the 
Democratic nomination to the state Senate, argued that whatever the pur- 
pose, the actual result of the proposed districting was to segregate Negroes in 
such a manner as to cut down from three to one the possible Negro delega- 
tion to future Senates. Of even more importance was the fact that the only 
sitting Negro Senator from Chicago, spurred on by political leaders of his 
race, suddenly refused to hold still. For a twenty-four hour period just 
preceding Senate action on the House approved bill, the entire reapportion- 
ment was in jeopardy. 

The sole practical solution involved a change in the South Side Chicago 
Senate districts which would place a sitting white Democratic Senator in a 
district predominantly Negro. Any such arrangement, however, necessitated 
an informal commitment from Negro political leaders that the white in- 
cumbent would not be dumped at the next election. Once an agreement 
to that effect — ^ which obviously could not be negotiated in Springfield — 
was achieved, peace came back to the Senate side, and most especially to 
the worried Democratic leadership. The Negro group came out with two 
Senate seats, but one of them was to be somewhat delayed, a circumstance 
that protected the sitting white member and protected the Democratic or- 
ganization against possible attack as anti-Negro. 

Thereafter, nothing remained for the Senate but to disagree with the 
House amendment which had changed a Senate district and to pass (48-2) 
the House Bill with the changes reflecting the Senate deals. Two Democratic 
Senators, who were being sacrificed, cast the only votes against the measure 
just as they had been alone in their opposition in the Democratic caucus. 

House leaders viewed with alarm the prospect of each chamber adhering 
to its position on the single House amendment to the Senate districting. The 
chairman of the special House Apportionment Committee moved to concur 
in the Senate amendment "in the interests of getting the job done." More- 
over, he warned the House that he could not "see any real hope of the 


Senate changing its position," and that the end result would only be "need- 
less nervous tension and irritation."''^ 

Members seemed unwilling to take further direction on the reapportion- 
ment issue, however, and refused, 41-69, to agree to the Senate amendment. 
The consequence was a brief and surprisingly harmonious conference com- 
mittee session which recommended that the Senate recede from its amend- 
ment. Although there was some discussion of reopening consideration of a 
House district which was not in disagreement, this was not pressed. The con- 
ference report was adopted by both houses without excitement. 


The redistricting of the Illinois Senate accomplished by the 1955 session 
of the General Assembly is probably permanent. There is no constitutional 
mandate requiring action within any established period of time, and it is 
doubtful that legislators \vill deliberately invite a constitutional challenge 
by insisting on effecting a redistricting which they are delighted to avoid 
in the first place. House seats, however, according to the constitution, must 
be redistricted on the basis of population in 1963 and every ten years there- 
after. The importance of any generalizations offered on the basis of this 
case study should, therefore, be related to their applicability to future House 
redistricting. Although Senate experience is pertinent to developing such 
generalizations, another constitutional amendment involving another con- 
stellation of forces and new criteria will be required precedent to a Senate 

On the House side, the most important elements of the future setting 
are likely to be much the same as they were in 1955, and the major change 
— to a pure population base without regard to limiting the number of seats 
for Chicago and for Cook County as against downstate — is known in ad- 
vance. With these things in mind, the following modest judgments are offered 
in the form of conclusions to the case study and in the hope that they may 
aid in the understanding of policy making in this field: 

1. Peripheral groups seeking to maximize their influence over the terms 
of redistricting legislation should focus their activities exclusively on con- 
tacts with members of the legislature rather than on attempts either to ex- 
pand their membership or to achieve a united front with other groups. The 
legislative interest is clearly dominant in redistricting policy making. Al- 

^' St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 9, 1955. The parliamentary situation was that 
the Senate had amended the bill already passed by the House. The Senate amend- 
ment restored the districting proposed by the Senate committee and informally agreed 
to by the Senate leadership. This districting, incorporated in the House bill as in- 
troduced, had been changed on the floor of the House. Consequently, the Senate 
amendment really was a return to the original agreement. In this sense, the amend- 
ment did not introduce new substantive material. 


though the legislative interest may be subject to minor adjustment — as in 
the case of the Chicago West Side districts — it will not be overcome. In 
the development of redistricting policy, the legislature does not actively seek 
opinion from outside the General Assembly as it does with banking legisla- 
tion, with labor legislation, or with farm legislation. Non-legislative groups 
tend to be tolerated but are effective only to the extent that an individual 
member or members actively champion their cause. This same point may 
be expressed another way by saying that no non-legislative group can be- 
come dominant in a redistricting issue; consequently, all non-legislative 
groups have virtually the same likelihood of influencing the final pattern 
because they must all work within the boundaries of the (incumbent) legis- 
lative interest. 

2. An effective technique for maximizing influence over redistricting 
legislation is the preparation and presentation of specific proposals in the 
form of maps. The Illinois legislature is accustomed to a multitude of draft 
bills being offered by representatives of innumerable groups. A group spokes- 
man who had been able to offer a valid map at the outset of the 1955 ses- 
sion would have achieved easy access to the policy discussions. The absence 
of such maps tended to make the legislative interest virtually exclusive. 

3. Influence on redistricting legislation can be maximized by directing 
proposals affecting any district or districts to the incumbent legislator or 
legislators from the district. Redistricting decisions affecting each cham-ber 
are made within the particular house involved, and, as a further refinement, 
redistricting decisions affecting particular geographical areas within each 
house are made by legislators representing those geographical areas. In the 
House and in the Senate, a kind of "to each his own" spirit obtains so that 
neither the leaders of the house involved nor the party machinery is as 
effective in influencing the districting as are the members from the area. 
The ultimate locus of power lies in the subcommittees assigned to different 
parts of the state, and this holds true whether the redistricting job is as- 
signed to a standing committee or a special committee and whether the full 
committee is equi-partisan or controlled by the majority party. In the Illi- 
nois House redistricting in 1963, groups supporting particular proposals 
will find it most advantageous to concentrate their attention on House mem- 
bers (to the virtual exclusion of Senators), and especially on House mem- 
bers representing the area involved. No other members have the same rela- 
tive control over the terms of redistricting legislation. 

4. Redistricting proposals that dislodge a minimum number of sitting 
members, irrespective of party, will be favored over proposals that do not 
take into account the sitting members. There is no evidence that in the 1955 
redistricting either party persisted in an attempt to improve the existing 


legislative strength of the party by a favorable redistricting scheme. On the 
other hand, neither party showed any disposition to give up any of its safe 
seats or sacrifice any of its sitting members. In short, if it had been possible 
to achieve a redistricting that would have satisfied the constitutional man- 
date without imperiling the seat of any member, such a plan would have 
had virtually unanimous support in the General Assembly. To the extent 
that future redistricting plans can approach this goal, to that extent will 
they have a minimum of opposition. Neither party nor principle nor region 
are more important than a legislator's colleagues.