After tweaking this district all evening, I am stumped. Are there any obvious batch of Democrats I am missing? I want to save southern Montgomery and Macoupin Counties for bolstering the 12th. I suppose I could always go into Fulton County, but then I would have to replace those Democrats with other voters for my new 17th. Coles County with Mattoon and Charleston might be another possibility, but if you are going mainly by Kerry 2004 results (which I am - the 2008 Obama results are just too rosy everywhere in the state although not as bad in the central and southern part of the state as in the Chicago metro area), Kerry lost that county quite handily in 2004. Either way you look at it, because both Springfield and Bloomington-Normal in a neutral year (like 2004) are lean-GOP cities, even with the powerhouses of Urbana-Champaign, Decatur, and the lean-Democratic cities of Peoria and Dansville, you still end up no better than 51.41% Kerry (at least at my valiant attempt at it).
Any thoughts of how I should try to bolster this district to 52-53% Kerry. That is my goal for creating 3 downstate lean-Democratic seats. I got Jerry Costello's district up to 53-46 simply by axing out Williamson, Union, Pulaski, and Alexander and adding in the town of Edwardsville in Madison County and bits of southern Macoupin and Montgomeryt counties. Likewise it is easy to make the 17th into a 53-47 Kerry district by going into Rockford.
This district for what it's worth, voted 59-40 for Obama in 2008 but only 51-48 for Kerry 4 years prior. I suspect the reason has largely to do with turnout issues among minorities and college students. We won't have those worries in 2012 but I worry about the remaining 4 election cycles.
I would still advocate drawing this map, even if it is not possible to go higher than 51-48. Other than Dick Durbin (who represented Springfield and Decatur when he was in the House), these cities as far as I know have never been a) brought together; or b) represented by a Democrat. Instead Illinois suffers from decades' worth of GOP gerrymanders with the result that these cities are always split up.
Still, if Democrats get a bit skittish, I would not be entirely surprised if they sought to bolster the 17th a bit more as well as the 12th at the expense of a new district.
I welcome your thoughts.