CHICAGO (AP) – The Illinois Democrats are expected to approve new legal boundaries Tuesday against objections from Republicans and some community groups that the process has been unnecessarily speeded up and cards drawn behind closed doors to keep the Democrats in power.
Tuesday’s vote is a reprint of cards approved by a Democratic majority and signed by Governor JB Pritzker earlier this year. These maps led to lawsuits from leading Illinois Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a Latin American civil rights organization, who argued that they were flawed and unconstitutional because they were based on population estimates from the American Community Survey, rather than the 2020 census .
With the census data released this month, Democratic leaders said the maps would be adjusted and the Illinois legislature would return to Springfield for another vote. That could ensure that Democrats continue to control the card-making process, rather than risking a judge tossing the cards away or allowing a bipartisan commission to do the job – a process that could end with Republicans having the final say.
The new cards, which House and Senate Democrats put online for the first time Monday afternoon, will be used in elections for the next decade.
Elizabeth Hernandez, a Democrat from Cicero who chairs the House Redistribution Committee, said Monday the new boundaries “better reflect the data we recently received from the US census and ensure communities of the people of their choice are represented ”.
Republicans have beaten up the Democrats, saying that hastily convened and sparsely attended public hearings over the past week were a disgrace, as lines were already being drawn in a secret, Democratic-controlled process.
Witnesses testifying at these hearings urged Democrats to post proposed cards and give the public up to 30 days – or more – to weigh before a vote takes place.
Ami Gandhi, senior counsel of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, told redistribution committee members it was “unreasonable” to expect voters to respond without cards to respond. Rev. Robin Hood, who represents black voters in Chicago, said people felt “gross” when they were excluded from the process.
Jay Young, executive director of Common Cause Illinois, said the cards that lawmakers will vote on Tuesday “will not be made of public input, but of pure politics.”
“At every opportunity in this reassignment process, it is as if lawmakers went out of their way to ensure that the creation of these maps had as little public input as possible,” said Young.
Legislators have historically used census data for the redistribution or process of redrawing political maps every 10 years to reflect population changes and, among other things, to ensure that the counties are roughly the same. However, with the 2020 census release delay due to the pandemic this year, the Democrats chose to use the American Community Survey to meet a June 30th deadline set by the state’s constitution.
If lawmakers failed to meet this deadline, an eight-member commission with an equal number of Democrats and GOP lawmakers would be created. If that group couldn’t approve a card, a ninth member was chosen at random to break the tie.
Republicans are hoping a federal judge will throw away the Democrats’ cards and order the trial to begin.
The Illinois Democrats have not yet voted on the new Congressional district boundaries. The state constitution doesn’t set a deadline for approving these cards, so lawmakers have chosen to wait for the census data before drawing these cards. Illinois is losing a seat in Congress and the Democrats are expected to eliminate a GOP-held district.
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