Democrats pass new maps hours after releasing data | Illinois

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(The Center Square) – Democrats released revised legislative maps Thursday evening and approved them the next night without any support from Republicans, who criticized the data used to draw the maps and the process by which the legislative districts were drawn.

Last Friday, Democrats released draft legislative boundaries, but no data to back up how the lines were drawn. They held several hearings where community groups demanded the data be released.

Early Friday morning, the amendments to the bills that contained the updated maps were filed and for the first time so was the data used to draft the boundaries. Hastily-called hearings were held where multiple community groups said they had as little as ten minutes of notice.

Despite requests from a broad array of community groups to have two weeks to review the data, Democrats moved the measures out to the floor of the House and Senate.

In the House, Republican members repeated their demands to use accurate data and to not have politicians draw the maps. Democrats ignored those requests.

The majority party noted they used American Community Survey data to draw the maps, even though they acknowledged it was 0.3% off of recent statewide data released by the U.S. Census. The most accurate Census data meant to be used for redistricting isn’t expected until this summer.

State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Chicago, closed the debate on a resolution about the new boundaries saying the map isn’t perfect, but reflects the state’s diversity.

“And it’s a map that will be modeled nationwide,” Hernandez said as laughter could be heard throughout the chamber. “I ask for your ‘aye’ vote.”

The Senate passed the new maps bill in an amendment to House Bill 2777 along party lines, which originally started as a bill to extends the repeal date of the Cemetery Oversight Act.

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, urged Gov. J.B. Pritzker to keep his word and veto partisan drawn maps.

“Governor, veto this map and this shameful process by which it was produced,” Barickman said.

After passing in the Senate, the map bill was then sent to the House for final passage. Representatives debated the merits of the measure late Friday evening.

Democrats called Republicans obstructionists and criticized GOP members for spending money on attorneys but not providing any map drafts, something Republicans have said is because they didn’t have the final Census data.

Democrats also said Republicans were trying to stall the process in hopes they could gain control in the constitutional convention process, something that would kick in if lawmakers don’t approve the maps by June 30.

Republicans continued their criticism about the use of ACS data, instead of the full Census data, the lack of transparency on what other data was used and who ultimately drew the maps or provided suggestions on how to extrapolate populations to the individual level.

“We’re going to have to take a look at the Census data, but we’re not going to make any commitment,” Hernandez said when asked if they’d review the final Census data when it’s released this summer.

“Is that an admission that these maps are not workable?” asked state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville.

“No, not at all,” Hernandez said.

Bourne reminded the chamber former President Barack Obama spoke to Illinois lawmakers in 2016 and said there needs to be independent map making. She even said current President Joe Biden is critical of gerrymandering.

Several Democrats characterized Republicans as not working on changes to help disadvantaged communities, but Republicans countered Democrats are ignoring the voices of a broad array of ethic and religious minority groups who want the maps based on accurate data.

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, criticized the origins of the bill hinting at the poor economic performance and gerrymandering under Democratic control.

“I too found the (original) title of this bill very peculiar,” Wilhour said. “Cemetery oversight … I don’t know if it was a hat tip to your voting block or a premonition of Illinois’ future under your leadership.”

The measure passed the House along party lines 71-45.

Also Friday, for the first time since 1963, maps for the Illinois Supreme Court districts were approved. Republicans say there’s been virtually no oversight or public input.

Earlier this week, the draft Illinois Supreme Court maps were released.

State Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago, was asked in committee Friday if there was any testimony from the public on the proposed supreme court maps.

“From the hearings that I participated in, I don’t personally, individual, remember any testimony about the supreme court redistricting,” Tarver said.

After the hearing, during a news conference, state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said that shows the process is a sham.

“The only reason to do this is because Tom Killbride lost his retention and Democrats are afraid they may lose the majority on the supreme court which is part of how they’ve maintained unified control of this government,” Spain said.

Spain noted Kilbride was the former Supreme Court justice who shot down a citizen-led initiative for an independent redistricting committee. Kilbride was the first justice to lose retention when voters rejected him in November 2020.

Tarver said the map change is needed to make supreme court districts have substantially equal populations.

The maps now head to the governor’s desk for his action where he could either sign or veto. He hasn’t held a public event in more than a week.

Illinois’ legislative session ends May 31.



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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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