Regardless of which candidate captured Illinois’ 15th Congressional District seat, Danville and Vermilion County might feel a bit neglected these days.
Neither congressional candidate — one from Mattoon and one from Oakland — bothered to campaign much in Vermilion County. Both candidates also declined to answer a questionnaire from the Commercial-News. That sends a negative message, whether the candidates’ intended it as such or not.
The situation shows how the composition of the 15th District might be good for political purposes — it has gone Republican since the district boundaries were drawn in 2010 — but it fails to offer residents in the Vermilion County area consistent representation.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, who decided not to run for re-election this year, made a couple of appearances in the area each year and helped in securing the former federal courthouse, now the Vermilion County Administration Building, and a former Army Reserve building for Danville Area Community College. And he maintained an office in Danville as well.
The physical makeup of the district contributes greatly to the problem. From Vermilion County, the district’s northernmost point, it runs along the Illinois-Indiana state line to the Ohio River. It also slices southwest south of Springfield all the way to Belleville, just outside St. Louis. That’s a lot of territory with a wide variety of economic issues and resident concerns.
After the results of the 2020 Census are compiled, Illinois officials will draw new legislative districts — including for the 15th Congressional District. Officials expect Illinois to lose a seat in the U.S. House due to population changes. That means the 15th District — along with about every other district south of Chicago and its surrounding counties — is likely to become even larger than it is now.
Illinois officials must appoint a non-partisan, independent body to create those new districts. It’s the only way the new districts might have a hope of sharing common concerns without the weight of politics pushing the lines here and there.
An independent body would be ideal. But this is Illinois where political power overrules consideration of public service every time.
After the results of the election become official, let your Illinois representatives know that an independent redistricting body will benefit Illinois — and Vermilion County — the most. It’s the only chance the area has of gaining the attention it deserves.