Democrats who control the Illinois House and Senate posted maps online Friday night showing proposed boundaries for new state legislative districts as part of a process required by the state constitution at least every 10 years. The proposed maps “comply with federal and state law and ensure the broad racial and geographic diversity of Illinois is reflected in the
Democrats who control the Illinois House and Senate posted maps online Friday night showing proposed boundaries for new state legislative districts as part of a process required by the state constitution at least every 10 years.
The proposed maps “comply with federal and state law and ensure the broad racial and geographic diversity of Illinois is reflected in the General Assembly,” Democrats said in a news release emailed at about 7:30 p.m.
“Redistricting is about making sure all voices are heard, and that’s exactly what this map accomplishes,” State Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said in the release. “This is a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state and ensures every person receives equal representation in the General Assembly.”
The redistricting maps for the state’s 118 House and 59 Senate seats, drawn with population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, immediately were criticized by Republicans and advocates for communities and good government.
Much of the criticism centered on the accuracy of the ACS data and a lack of detail in the redrawn maps.
Democrats, who have the votes to muscle partisan maps through the General Assembly and to the governor’s desk by the legislature’s scheduled May 31 adjournment, should wait for more accurate Census data scheduled for release in mid-August, critics said. That way minorities and rural residents typically undercounted in ACS data would be fully counted.
Republicans and the advocates said the low-quality maps released by Democrats will make it impossible for the public to analyze boundaries to the street and neighborhood level before hearings scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Democrats are up against a June 30 deadline the Illinois Constitution requires for lawmakers to pass new maps. If they miss that deadline, the task goes to an independent commission with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s really hard to make heads or tails of it,” said Madeleine Doubek, executive director of Change Illinois, said of the maps. “If this is all they release, I don’t know how anyone could provide feedback in a meaningful way.”
Change Illinois is a nonpartisan group that pushes for ethics and efficiency in government and elections. Change Illinois and other groups had asked lawmakers for at least two weeks to analyze detailed maps before giving opinions.
Change Illinois was among the groups that issued a joint statement Friday night saying they “strongly reject” the use of Census ACS data because it would undercount Illinoisans by about 41,900 people statewide.
The other groups included the Better Government Association, Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Latino Policy Forum, Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition and Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community.
“The undercount is likely to have a greater effect on people of color,” the statement said. “Black communities have historically been underrepresented, under-resourced, and targeted by large-scale misinformation campaigns designed to further disenfranchise them.
“The ACS data collection did not have the benefit of the historic, people-powered effort and state funding that the Census did to ensure communities were counted, particularly Black communities,” the statement said.
Democrats said in their news release ACS estimates from surveys conducted between 2015 and 2019 vary by “just 0.3% from the state’s official population count released by the U.S. Census Bureau in April.”
State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, chairwoman of the House Redistricting Committee, said the “proposed map amplifies the diverse voices of the people of Illinois, allows communities to be represented by people of their choice and ensures that every person in our state has a say in their government.
“This fair map reflects input from grassroots individuals and community organizations across our state, and I’m thankful for every person who took the time to make their voices heard,” she said. “I look forward to continued engagement as Illinoisans provide feedback to this proposal in additional public hearings.”
Democrats haven’t yet released proposed new maps for U.S. House districts or Illinois Supreme Court districts. Illinois is losing one of its 18 House seats in Congress.
Whitney Barnes, press secretary for Illinois Senate Republicans, said the proposed legislative maps “is just further proof that the Democrat majority is uninterested in providing the transparency that Illinoisans so desperately want from their government.
“Even members of the General Assembly and their experienced staff cannot decipher these maps, and it is unreasonable to think the general public will be able to digest and understand them,” Barnes said.
Because of the proposed maps’ lack of specificity, it’s unclear how they might affect the chances of Springfield-area members of the House and Senate to win reelection.
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who represents the 87th House District and is GOP spokesman on the House Redistricting Committee, said Democrats’ proposal was “a completely unprofessional way to roll out maps — late on a Friday night, with basically a map that looks like clip art, where you can’t even tell what the districts are. They don’t even have community boundaries on here. This certainly is not the granular detail that we need to make an educated decision on the maps as we move forward.”
Spokespeople for House and Senate Democrats didn’t respond to inquiries from The State Journal-Register about whether and when more detailed maps would be available.
Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, a member of the redistricting committee who represents the 95th District, said the Democrats’ approach to map-making was “the opposite of a transparent process.”
Bourne noted 30 House Democrats, including House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, who succeeded former Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, previously supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would have called for an independent commission, rather than lawmakers, to draw redistricting maps.
“This is the opposite of their public statements they’ve made about the map-making process,” Bourne said.
Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said: “Releasing new partisan maps late on a Friday night proves that the Mike Madigan playbook continues in the Illinois House. In a further attempt to skirt any transparency, Democrats dropped partisan maps drawn in a locked room by politicians who hand-selected their voters.”
Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker recently said he would veto an “unfair” map but didn’t elaborate.
Pritzker’s position has changed since he was a candidate for governor. He said in writing at the time he would veto any legislative map “drafted or created by legislators, political party leaders and/or their staffs or allies.”
A spokeswoman for Pritzker didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Democrats’ maps.
The public hearings start at 4 p.m. Tuesday, when the House and Senate redistricting committees hold a joint meeting; 6 p.m. Tuesday, when the House Redistricting Committee will meet; 4 p.m. Wednesday, during a joint House and Senate committee meeting; and at 6 p.m. Wednesday, during a Senate committee hearing. Details on how to provide in-person testimony were not clear.
Many Democrats on the House and Senate redistricting committees have been focused on meeting the June 30 deadline the Illinois Constitution requires for lawmakers to pass new maps. If they miss that deadline, the task goes to an independent commission with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.
If the commission cannot agree on new maps by Aug. 10, the name of an additional Democratic or Republican commission member is drawn from a stovepipe hat to break the tie by Oct. 5.
Doubek said Change Illinois and other groups want lawmakers to seek approval from the Illinois Supreme Court to delay the June 30 deadline and allow the legislature to use Census data released in August without having to transfer redistricting decisions to the commission or face drawing a name out of a hat.
Democrats said their proposed maps would comply with several constitutional and statutory standards, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to ensure new maps preserve clusters of minority voters “if they are of size or cohesion to exert collective electoral power.”
Democrats said legislative redistricting maps must create districts that are substantially equal in population, compact and contiguous.
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