SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Democratic lawmakers used their supermajorities to pass new legislative district maps out of both chambers Tuesday night. This time, Democrats used data from the 2020 Census instead of relying on outdated information from the 2019 American Community Survey. However, many advocates are still upset and the maps still face legal challenges.
Democrats had a map prepared Monday night, but they adjusted some districts and published their new map Tuesday morning shortly before a redistricting hearing. Most advocates didn’t know about either happening until it was too late.
Diversity groups and good government organizations believe the districts won’t properly represent the people living in them. Democratic Leader Lisa Hernandez told lawmakers the new maps included input from communities of interest. Although, she explained they couldn’t please everyone since it is a complicated process.
Still, advocates told Democrats they wanted the public to have 30 days to see what their new districts could look like. Republicans once again called the process a sham.
A partisan process until the end
“You have defined what it means to be disingenuous,” said Rep. Ryan Spain. “This body and this majority has shown great disappointment to the earnest people that have brought their ideas forward, none of which are accommodated.”
Members of both chambers went through hours-long debates about the redistricting process. Republicans constantly asked for the truth behind the reasoning for decisions made about the new districts.
“Stop the charade about the fact that you got all this public input before you drew the maps. We know better,” said Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield). “You know better.”
However, Democrats feel they took proper input from the public after 50 hearings in the spring and several hearings over the past week.
“This hasn’t been easy,” said Hernandez. “But this is a map that I truly believe reflects the diversity of the state. We did it.”
The House passed the new maps on a partisan 73-43 vote. They also approved the House Resolution with demographic information about districts on a party-line vote.
Harmon to Republicans: “What have you been doing?”
Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) said he watched the entire House debate while his chamber waited to reconvene. However, Barickman quickly criticized Senate President Don Harmon and other Democrats who supported the remap.
“I think there’s simply no words to describe the sham for which this process has been, said Barickman. “The most shameful part of it is watching the many friends that I have on the other side of the aisle who know it. There is not a person that’s been involved in this process who hasn’t seen it to be exactly what it is.”
Yet, Harmon stressed each legislative district drawn in the new maps is compact and contiguous. He also said the proposed changes to districts created good, fair maps that reflect the diversity of Illinois. Harmon later addressed frequent complaints from Republicans that Democrats never allowed them to come to the table to improve the process.
“We’ve never seen any of your plans,” said Harmon. We’ve never seen any maps produced by the minority party. Where are those maps? Did you go to court asking for an extension of the June 30 deadline? Did you round up busloads of witnesses to go to redistricting hearings? What have you been doing?”
The Senate President also noted that redistricting is a complex puzzle that can cause ripple effects depending on where a line is drawn.
Senators passed the new maps on a partisan 40-17 vote. They also approved the redistricting resolution with a party-line vote.
Advocates upset with outcome
CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek said Democrats disrespected constituents and valuable community input. She also noted how the majority party rushed the process over six days to approve new legislative maps.
“Drawing district maps in locked back rooms yet again, Illinois lawmakers underscroed their utter disregard for the will of the people and for the bedrock democratic principles of open government by and for the people. Gov. Pritzker said he wanted maps that reflect the state’s rich diversity,” Doubek said. “These maps fall far short of that request and should be rejected by him. Failing that, we hope the courts will force the correction of lawmakers’ callous political mapping calculations.”
The Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights also opposed the new maps. Ami Ghandi, senior counsel for the organization, raised concerns about the maps meeting racial and civil rights requirements.
“We simply don’t have enough reassurances that communities of color have had their voting rights respected. That’s especially the case for Black voters who are deeply affected by this map proposal,” said Ghandi. “Any time that there’s a change in the number of Black majority districts, there’s a reason for communities to be concerned.”
The maps now head to Gov. Pritzker’s desk for final approval.