New legislative maps may bring new faces to some voters
GOP, Hispanic group challenge remap in court
By Bob Bong and Peter Hancock
Illinois lawmakers gave quick approval last month to new maps for Illinois House and Senate districts that may change who will represent our local communities after the 2022 elections.
Illinois lawmakers passed the measures May 28, less than 24 hours after the bills implementing the maps were introduced.
The latest versions of the legislative maps were released about 6:30 p.m. May 27 and while locally they don’t change much, in some areas they will lead to drastic shifts in who represents who starting in 2023.
Locally, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins is expected to remain in the 16th District, which will run from Willow Springs east to Greater Grand Crossing and take in portions of Hickory Hills, Oak Lawn, Hometown and Burbank.
Sen. Bill Cunningham’s 18th District hasn’t changed much. It now runs from Palos Park east to Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood and south from Oak Lawn to Orland Park. It takes in Palos Hills, Worth, Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, and Palos Heights.
District 14 starts in Orland Park and runs northeast to Roseland. It takes in Robbins, Blue Island and Calumet Park. Emil Jones III is the current senator.
As for state House districts, Fran Hurley’s 35th District will now run from Orland Park north to Beverly and takes in Palos Heights, Alsip and Merrionette Park along the way.
Kelly Burke’s 36th District runs from Palos Park east to Beverly and includes Palos Hills, Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Chicago Ridge, and Worth.
The 31st District runs east from Willow Springs to Auburn-Gresham and includes portions of Hickory Hills, Oak Lawn and Hometown. Mary Flowers is the current representative.
Part of the new 32nd District starts in Hickory Hills and runs east to Greater Grand Crossing. Cyril Nichols is the current representative.
The 27th District starts in Orland Park and runs northeast to Roseland. Justin Slaughter is the current representative.
Of course, the new maps must survive legal challenges from Illinois Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Those revised maps are similar to a draft set of maps that were released earlier and were the subject of joint committee hearings. During those hearings, the maps drew wide criticism from racial, ethnic and religious communities, particularly in the Chicago area, who complained that they broke up communities of interest and diluted minority voting power.
Democrats said they took those comments into consideration, along with concerns of some Republicans.
“After 50 public hearings across the state and listening to hours of testimony, the House and Senate Democrats have put together a product our state can be proud of,” Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said in a release. “What should stand out about this proposed map is how similar districts look compared to our current map.”
Those changes included keeping more of the Chicago-area Orthodox Jewish community in a single district and keeping the North Lawndale neighborhood, a predominantly Black community, in one district.
The revised maps also reconfigure some Republican districts to reduce the number of districts that would have multiple GOP incumbents.
But those changes did not appear to satisfy many of the concerns that were raised about the earlier proposal, including one that called for a district made up largely of Middle Eastern and Arab American residents.
“I think our question now is, what else can we do?” Dilara Sayeed, of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, asked during a House committee hearing. “What else can we do to ensure that our voices have not just been audio heard, but our voices have been respected and listened to?”
During that hearing, Hernandez acknowledged for the first time that the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey was the only data source for population estimates that were used in the mapmaking process, but that voting data from previous elections had been used to determine the partisan tilt of each district.
She had previously said that was just one of several data sources for population estimates.
Republicans also were harshly critical of how the latest redistricting proposal was released and the short notice members of the public had to offer public comment at the hearings.
Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said the process by which the proposed maps were developed demonstrated the need for handing over the redistricting process to an independent commission.
“The people of Illinois deserve better than this,” she said. “They deserve better than the bad data, fake deadlines and sham hearings. They deserve the chance to pick their politicians, instead of once again letting politicians, pick their voters.”
The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 41-18. A few hours later it came up in the House where the debate became even more partisan and acrimonious before it passed 71-45 on partisan lines.
Lawmakers also approved new maps for the Supreme Court districts outside of Cook County.
The Illinois Constitution requires that those districts have “substantially equal” populations, but the district maps have not been redrawn since the early 1960s.
Voters in those districts also elect judges for the appellate courts. Each of those districts also elects a justice for the Illinois Supreme Court.
Democrats currently have a 4-3 majority on the Supreme Court. But last year, Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat from the 3rd District covering north-central Illinois, lost his bid for retention, setting up an open race in 2022.
The proposed new map completely reconfigures that district so that it would cover most of western Illinois, from a point just north of St. Louis, northward to the Wisconsin border, taking in Springfield, Bloomington, Peoria, the Quad Cities and Rockford.
Two lawsuits have been filed asking the remaps to be thrown out.
“Illinois voters, including the growing Latino voter community, are entitled to districts that accurately reflect the population as determined by the constitutionally mandated decennial census,” MALDEF president and general counsel Thomas Saenz said in a statement explaining why the group is challenging the new maps. “Ultimately, the General Assembly will have to redraw lines for the 2022 elections using the proper decennial census data.”
The lawsuit is similar to one filed by House and Senate Republican leaders. It alleges that the use of American Community Survey population estimates, rather than actual census data, will produce districts of unequal size, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal protection clause.
“ACS data is not adequate to ensure the constitutional guarantee of one-person-one-vote,” said MALDEF attorney Francisco Fernandez-del Castillo in the statement. “Using the ACS estimates to draw district boundaries puts all Illinois voters — especially those in traditionally underrepresented communities, such as Latinos — at risk of being disenfranchised.”
The Illinois Constitution requires lawmakers to complete the redistricting process by June 30 of the year after each decennial census. After that, the process is assigned to a bipartisan commission in which partisan advantage could be determined by drawing a name out of a hat.
But the process was complicated this year because the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors slowed the official headcount of all U.S. residents, forcing the Census Bureau to delay release of the detailed, block-level data needed for redistricting until mid-August.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
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