Illinois Democrats approve new legislative, Supreme Court district maps


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The proposed redistricting maps for the next decade quickly moved through Springfield Friday. In fact, the revised maps and language for bills passed out of both chambers less than 24 hours after Democrats filed them.

Democrats called for redistricting hearings early Friday morning with an hour’s notice for Republicans and advocates hoping to testify about the maps. The Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition argues the map won’t reflect the state’s diversity. Dr. Dilara Sayeed explained the revised maps provide some representation for the Latino community. But, she feels lawmakers could still do much better.

“This map still only provides I believe one Asian House district in a state that has one of the largest Asian communities and the most diverse Asian communities in the nation,” Sayeed said. “This map still means zero state legislators can come from somebody who identifies as Muslim even though Illinois has the largest per capita Muslim population in the nation.”

Sayeed also asked committee members what else Muslim advocates could do for lawmakers to consider representation in Springfield. Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) thanked Sayeed for participating in many hearings throughout the process, but he never answered her question.

“I imagine our jobs would be much easier if we were able to organize people based on commonalities and communities of interest that defy geography,” said Senate President Don Harmon. “But there’s always a coalition of redistricting principles and among those in our constitution are the compact and contiguous requirements. This is complicated and complex and it is a difficult thing to reconcile.”

With very little time for people to speak against the district lines, lawmakers passed the legislation and sent it to the House and Senate floor. You can see the proposed House map here and the Senate map here.

“One of the most shameful things I’ve seen”

Each bill passed along partisan lines in the afternoon and late evening. Republicans stressed the people of Illinois deserve better.

“This is absolutely one of the most shameful things I’ve seen, absolutely one of the most shameful things. And they know it,” stressed Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield). “They absolutely know it and they continue to do the same thing.”

Still, Democrats feel they created fair maps and had a transparent process over the last few months. The majority party allowed few advocates to speak against their district lines before passing them out of the redistricting committees. As a result, Republicans said Democrats abandoned good government groups and residents who count on them to make the right decisions.

Harmon: “These are fair maps”

While most oppose the maps because Democrats didn’t wait for 2020 Census data, Harmon emphasized the American Community Survey is remarkably accurate. Redistricting leaders consistently say the ACS data varies by 0.3 percent from the true Illinois population count released in April.

“The districts that have been presented in this map have very little deviation among them,” Harmon said. “These are fair maps that live up to our promise at on the onset to reflect the diversity of the state.”

Harmon also jabbed at Republican hopes to push the redistricting process past June 30, calling it a fairytale. Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) recalled how Gov. JB Pritzker campaigned on a message of reform in 2018. He argued many people voted for the Chicago Democrat because they wanted to see an end to corruption and dysfunction.

“You looked in the eyes of the voters of this state and you said three magical words. You said, ‘I promise you.’ You said I promise you the voters that you would veto this legislation,” Barickman said. “Drawn by politicians, protecting the partisans, protecting the status quo. You governor, you promised the voters that you would take your pen and you would veto this piece of legislation.”

Senators later approved the redistricting legislation on a partisan 41-18 vote.

What comes next? Sign or veto

Hours later, representatives engaged in an hours-long debate on the proposal. Many Republicans asked Leader Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) who drew the new maps and how drafters made certain decisions. Hernandez frequently answered, “I don’t know.”

“Since the governor has previously pledged to veto a legislative drawn legislative map, I have every reason to believe he will exercise his veto pen,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. “For that, I want to thank the governor in advance for living up to that pledge. Here’s a question for you. Know that the governor has pledged to veto this map because it was drawn by you and your colleagues, will you override the governor’s veto?”

Hernandez called that a hypothetical question. Although, everyone knew the legislation could easily pass out of the chamber and head to Pritzker’s desk.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Hernandez added.

Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said Republicans across the country continue to stifle voting rights. However, the Hillside Democrat emphasized he won’t allow it in Illinois.

“We are not going to violate the Voting Rights Act. We are not going to abandon our constitutional responsibility. Period,” Welch said. “We are not going to let Republicans gridlock the process solely for political gains,” Welch said. “It’s not going to happen. Not here. Period.”

The legislation passed out of the House on a partisan 71-45 vote. Besides the legislative district lines, lawmakers also approved new districts for the Illinois Supreme Court for the first time in 60 years.

The proposals now head to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk for the ultimate decision.

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