SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Members of the Illinois Redistricting Committees held two meetings Wednesday night. Still, Democrats haven’t explained the data they used for their proposed map besides information from the 2019 American Community Survey.
Advocates and Republican lawmakers asked Democrats when the public can see that data or more detailed maps. However, the majority party continued to say they presented a draft map. Democrats also plan to use information from the hearings to make any necessary changes.
With session set to end on Monday, many advocates from minority communities raised concerns about the lack of transparency. Pastor Julie Contreras, President of United Giving Hope, expressed the Latino community is genuinely concerned that lawmakers are rushing the process without using data from the 2020 Census.
“The members of this committee have a responsibility and the power to be transparent about their data so we can have an honest, let me repeat that, an honest conversation on if their maps are fair,” said Contreras.
The pastor also explained that most advocates don’t trust the current proposed map because people can see a political agenda for the Democrats.
Mapes and the maps
Republicans serving on the redistricting committees tried to align the indictment of former House Speaker Mike Madigan’s Chief of Staff with the ethical decisions of mapmaking. Tim Mapes, the longtime confidant of Madigan, also served as the Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Illinois. Mapes fell from power after Madigan forced him to resign following a sexual harassment scandal in 2018.
Republicans recalled Mapes helped draw the last two redistricting maps. Now, Mapes faces charges of lying to a grand jury about his knowledge of the Speaker’s frequent involvement with lobbyists behind the ComEd bribery scheme. Rep. Tim Butler stressed Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch shouldn’t follow Madigan’s footsteps for redistricting.
“The old boss is gone. But the new boss has the same old boss’s ways,” Butler said. “And it came home to roost today in the indictment of the man who used to run this entire operation and whose shadow is cast across these proceedings today.”
Butler also stressed Illinoisans want change. He demanded Democrats stop having politicians pick the people in their districts.
“Let’s get to a real process, let’s get transparent. Let’s get the data out,” Butler said. “Stop stonewalling us and actually work collaboratively so we can do something good for the people of Illinois. But, I highly doubt that’s gonna happen over the next five days here.”
Political timeline or constitutional requirement
Top Democratic leaders explained they plan on holding another hearing for public input once they make changes to the map. However, they didn’t provide a specific date or timeline for when that may happen. Democrats also addressed the frequent attacks from Republicans throughout the process.
“Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to push this political timeline as opposed to adhering to what the Illinois constitution clearly delineates as our timeline,” said Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago). “They continue to push this false narrative that we should wait for this political decision that requires us to pull a name out of a hat.”
Sims explained the constitutional requirement for the legislature to pass a map by June 30. However, Republicans and good government groups frequently refer to that as the partisan map deadline. They would like to see Illinois wait until the final deadline of October 5. Although, Sims says lawmakers would move to the flip of a coin for redistricting if they wait for the census data.
“You are secretive, disingenuous and holding back information”
Froylan Jimenez, a civics teacher at John Hancock High School in Chicago, also told lawmakers about his concerns. Jimenez said he is disappointed with the map Democrats drafted, mainly due to the lack of information. He pulled a colorful U.S. map into the Zoom frame to show committee members.
“A bunch of colors, a bunch of shapes, but no real markers. And a matter of fact, this map is a map of the United States,” Jimenez explained. “At least it has the capitals on there.”
Jimenez also said his students want to believe their elected officials are transparent in the process of governing and make decisions based on public input. He criticized Democrats for releasing maps without reference or guidance.
“Your committee has gone through the motions of promising fairness, transparency, and pretending to listen and be inclusive while your actions demonstrate that you are secretive, disingenuous, and holding back information from the general public that trust government. It is actions like this that contribute to children growing up not having full faith in their government,” Jimenez said.