Illinois Democrats face criticism, not just from GOP, on new maps

Illinois Democrats are getting pushback on new congressional district boundaries they proposed last week, and not just from Republicans who stand to lose U.S. House seats under the plan.

Voters from Chicago’s southwest side, who were drawn out of the district currently held by Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, told lawmakers Wednesday that the newly released maps would dilute their representation in Washington by putting their blue-collar, industrial neighborhoods in districts with "miles and miles of farmland."

Another witness criticized the way districts held by Black members of Illinois’ congressional delegation were "hacked up," in what Rep. Bobby Rush, who is Black, called "a horrendous map." And the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a nonpartisan group that studies redistricting, gave Illinois’ proposed map an "F" for fairness.

The Democrats, who control state government and redistricting in Illinois, are expected to approve new maps as soon as next week. Although it’s possible they will make changes to the draft they released Friday, the maps are expected to maintain the party’s partisan advantage and eliminate at least one Republican-held district.

Illinois currently has 18 seats in the U.S. House, with Democrats holding 13 and Republicans the other five. The state is losing a congressional seat because of population loss, most of which occurred in heavily Republican areas of central and southern Illinois, according to the 2020 census.

The Democrats’ new map is intended to elect 14 Democrats and three Republicans. It would dismantle the district currently held by GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a critic of former President Donald Trump who was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment.

Instead, Kinzinger was drawn into the district held by Newman, which would stretch from Chicago’s southwest suburbs and west along Interstate 80 to the La Salle area. Kinzinger said Friday that he and his staff were looking over the maps and that he is "reviewing all of the options, including those outside the House."

Former Rep. Dan Lipinski, who represented the 3rd District for more than a decade before losing to Newman in the 2020 Democratic primary, told Crain’s Chicago Business that he is considering challenging Newman for the seat.

Illinois is one of the few states where Democrats control redistricting, and the party nationally is looking to the state for help in 2022. Democrats control the U.S. House by a thin margin, and Republicans are in charge of redistricting in more states than Democrats, which could give the GOP an advantage in next year’s midterm elections.

On Tuesday, the National Republican Redistricting Trust blasted Illinois’ proposed maps, with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie saying a federal court ruling this week in a lawsuit over newly approved state legislative maps should be "a warning sign" to Illinois’ Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker.

The court ruled that maps Democrats passed this spring based on population estimates rather than census data were unconstitutional. Democrats have since passed new state legislative maps using census data, though they are being challenged in court by Republicans and the Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense Fund.

The judges denied a request for a legislative redistricting commission made up of Republicans and Democrats to draft new maps, but said MALDEF, Republicans and Democrats may all submit new proposals for the court to consider.

"I hope that what the governor sees is, you can’t get away with it," Christie said.