By Jonah Chester, Public News Service:

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is facing 22 charges of bribery and racketeering.

The Chicago Democrat led the chamber for decades, and one ethical-government advocate said his control of the redistricting process was one way he maintained power in the General Assembly.

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Madeleine Doubek, executive director of the organization Change Illinois, said during last year’s redistricting process, lawmakers followed a path favored by Madigan – a secretive approach that largely disregarded public input.

Democrats, meanwhile, argue the process had numerous public hearings.

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“But those hearings, people who participated in them felt they were pretty meaningless,” said Doubek. “And we still had maps that were drawn in a back room and unveiled at the last minute and voted on a few hours later.”

In a statement, Madigan denied any wrongdoing and argued the charges leveled against him were unfounded.

Doubek and other ethical-government advocates are calling for a nonpartisan redistricting commission for future cycles, in an effort to end political power brokering.

The nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the new House map a passing grade, but failed both the Senate and Congressional map for favoring Democratic candidates.

Doubek previously worked as a journalist covering state politics. She said both Gov. J.B. Pritzker and current House Speaker Emanuel Welch previously supported an independent, citizen-led redistricting commission.

“And they set that previous record and promises aside and oversaw the gerrymandering that we have been subjected to yet again,” said Doubek.

Redistricting is done once every decade, typically after states receive returns from the U.S. Census.

While the state won’t redraw the maps until 2031, Doubek said folks can take steps today to ensure fair representation in the next redistricting cycle.

“This is an election year,” said Doubek, “and it’s important that we all hold our lawmakers accountable and let them know that we expect change.”

Illinois’ Democrat-drafted legislative maps were initially created using the Census Bureau’s less-accurate American Community Survey, and were later revised based on census returns.

The state’s congressional districts were also drafted based on census returns.

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