(The Center Square) – Democrats at the Illinois statehouse early Friday morning passed new congressional maps, which will last for the next decade, hours after the latest legislative boundaries were released late Thursday night without a public hearing.
Illinois lost a seat in Congress for the next ten years because of the state’s continued population decline. Illinois will now be 17 seats in the U.S. Congress.
For weeks, statehouse Republicans have been trying to discern what input is being considered by Democrat staff crafting the maps.
During a midday hearing Thursday, state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, asked Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, several different ways whether the governor’s office has been involved.
“Thank you, counselor, are we preparing for litigation at this point,” Harmon said.
“I’m just trying to get a question answered as to whether the governor provided you input on the bill,” Barickman said.
“I am not aware of any notes or any input,” Harmon said.
Thursday’s hearing was on the third draft of the map.
Illinois resident William Beaulieu testified that there needs to be more time to fully digest the maps and for more public input.
“It takes time to draw a map and it is our feeling that this process is being rushed,” Beaulieu said.
Meghann McEntee said her group has submitted maps, but they haven’t received any feedback on whether the proposals are being considered.
“As citizens, we hope that we are being heard, and we’d like to see that we’re being heard,” McEntee said.
After that afternoon hearing, a new draft map was released in House Bill 1291 at around 7 p.m.
Upon quick review, Republicans said it will likely be the most gerrymandered map in the nation. There wasn’t another public hearing before the measure was called on the Senate floor shortly after 9 p.m.
Barickman criticized reported private meetings with Democratic staff and congressional members. Harmon said he didn’t take part in any of those meetings.
“Other than the nefarious veneer you have placed over this, without doubt, we have taken input from stakeholders from all shapes and sizes,” Harmon said.
Barickman said the process the maps were drawn adds to the cynicism among Illinoisans.
State Sen Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, said there haven’t been enough hearings, including a scheduled downstate hearing that didn’t happen.
“We have not been allowed to have an in-person voice when there were multiple opportunities for the people who were in other parts of this state,” Bryant said.
State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Bloomington, said not having a hearing in southern Illinois including not hearing from residents in the Metro East.
Plummer also brought up to Harmon ethical issues with the redistricting committee being led by someone who flirted with the idea of running in a new congressional district.
“If that were a conflict of interests, wouldn’t we all have had to have recuse ourselves on the vote to adopt a map for the General Assembly,” Harmon responded.
“Not if we let the people draw the maps and have non-partisan commissions, Mr. President,” Plummer said.
Democrats criticized Republicans for not producing maps, despite having a budget to do so. Republicans have for years been adamant districts should be crafted by a nonpartisan commission.
After passing the House, the maps are now up to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.