Illinois Democrats push ahead on legislative maps despite GOP outcry
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Senate Democrats on Friday approved legislative district maps to govern elections in the Illinois General Assembly for the next decade despite an outcry from Republicans and Democratic-leaning community groups that say they’ve been ignored and haven’t gotten clear answers about how the lines were drawn.
The Senate voted 41-18 along party lines to approve maps drawn outside of the public eye but which Democrats contend were influenced by opinions voiced during 50 public hearings since April.
The legislation now moves to the House, which approved 72-45 a resolution that spells out how the maps were redrawn, a process required after each decennial Census. They were made without benefit of official U.S. Census numbers, which have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats contend they must be completed by June 25, which is simply the date on which they lose complete control of the work.
"The people deserve better than bad data, fake deadlines and sham hearings," said Sen. Sue Rezin, a Morris Republican.
During hastily called final hearings of the Redistricting Committees in both House and Senate, Republicans slammed the House redistricting leader, Rep. Elizabeth "Lisa" Hernandez of Chicago, after she acknowledged she didn’t know until Thursday night all the sources of data that were used — six days after the first version of the map was sprung on the public.
Even then, she struggled to explain what numbers were mined or how, other than pointing to the Census’ American Community Survey, an ongoing review of changes occurring in communities, which critics maintain are not suitable for drawing lines. She added that input from 50 public hearings and "election results" were sources but was unable to elaborate, and repeatedly said she did not have a list of individuals who put lines on paper.
Despite the late notice of the hearings, representatives of several interest groups were able to tune in to complain about being left out.
"Until you send a message that inclusion counts, it’s just talk...," Dilara Sayeed of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition said via video conference. "We can’t move forward. We can’t have 10 more years of this."
Political lines must be redrawn after each decennial Census to reflect changes in population and ensure protection of voters’ rights. They must be compact, contiguous, and of equal population, among other things.
Critics wonder why the map can’t wait for release of official U.S. Census numbers, which won’t be available until late summer. A consultant who’s on contract with House and Senate Democrats for $200,000 says the ACS numbers from before the 2010 Census varied only slightly from the official count.
The constitution requires the Legislature — currently controlled by Democratic super-majorities — to produce a map by June 30. After that, the project goes to a bipartisan commission. Each time that’s occurred since 1980, the panel has deadlocked and the name of the partisan tie-breaker is drawn from a hat.
Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat who sponsored the re-map bill, blamed the Census delay on an indifferent former Republican President Donald Trump and likened the bipartisan commission process to a plane crash. "Let’s land this plane," he said.
Virtually nothing was said about the cartography before the first map popped out late May 21. A revision appeared late Thursday which Hernandez maintained was "absolutely influenced" by public input. GOP Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon claimed there was an "intentional effort" to withhold details from taxpayers, adding, "It makes a mockery of this process."
Republicans also criticized the surprise remap produced this week of state Supreme Court districts, the first revision in 60 years. The GOP claims it’s because Democrats fear losing their majority on the high court. The House approved that map Friday afternoon.
After the hearing, Springfield Rep. Tim Butler, the House committee’s ranking Republican, pleaded with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker to live up to a campaign pledge to veto a map drawn by politicians. Pritzker has backed off that promise, now saying he will still nix an "unfair" map.
"Gov. Pritzker, speaking directly to you: Veto these maps, because as we proved today, they are (politically) drawn," Butler said.