(The Center Square) – The first public hearing of lawmakers crafting Illinois’ congressional maps, where the state will lose a seat in Congress because of population decline, is in the books. It lasted less than half an hour.
In Chicago, state Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, the chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said hearings over the next few weeks will take public input.
“Everyone is also invited to draw and submit their own proposed maps using the mapmaking portal that can be found in the House Democrats’ redistricting website,” Hernandez said.
That website is ILHouseDems.com/redistricting.
State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, alleged the Democrats already have their maps in mind and the hearings are just a facade.
“The majority hasn’t produced a map, nothing for the public to react to, yet we’ve seen rumors of maps, we have people announce for congress saying they’re running against a certain person and nobody knows what the maps are supposedly yet,” Butler said. “I highly suspect the majority of the people on that side of the aisle know what the maps are going to be today.”
Census data shows the state is one of three that lost population over the past 10 years. Because of that, Illinois goes from having 18 congressional representatives to 17.
Ryan Tolley with the group Change Illinois offering the committee several recommendations, including not rushing the maps once drafts are released.
“Almost every group that tries to engage with this process says their voices were ignored and their communities were harmed,” Tolley said. “Their efforts should really not be in vain.”
Illinois’ state legislative maps were passed by Democrats in May and approved by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June. Those were based on estimates and were challenged by Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Once final Census data was released in August, Democrats called a special session to pass revised maps, which the governor enacted. The state legislative maps are still in federal court with a three judge panel set to issue a ruling.
“We would encourage this committee to provide a level of transparency and community involvement that was not seen in the legislative map process,” Tolley said Thursday during the congressional map committee hearing.
After the hearing, Illinois’ Republican congressional delegation sent out a joint statement calling the process a sham. They said there should be an independent process that’s clear of politicians drawing maps for more political influence.
“The Democrats’ corruption in Illinois will continue as long as Pritzker and Democrats in Springfield can pre-ordain the results of elections before voters cast a ballot,” said U.S. Reps Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, Rodney Davis, R-Taylorivlle, Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, and Mary Miller, R-Oakland.
A spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Illinois did not return a message seeking comment.
The next hearing on congressional maps is Oct. 12 in Joliet.