No matter the map, candidates for elected office have to get on the ballot, run a campaign, get out the vote and win a race.
But the districts in which candidates run — and the political leanings, demographics, racial makeups and careers of the constituents who live in them — can make it unlikely a candidate from a particular party will ever have a chance at winning, or help tilt a race in the favor of a candidate from another party.
Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly and have unilateral power to draw the maps, on Friday revealed their first draft of the districts that will make up the Illinois House and Senate for the next decade; they did not, however, release the accompanying demographic information or other details that show in a meaningful way the voters within those boundaries.
Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said Democrats used a secretive and rigged process to draw districts to their political advantage.
“The only thing that seems to matter are the home addresses of incumbent politicians, so that Democrats can be protected and Republicans can be punished,” Spain said. “They invite all Democratic members to enter a secret room and give them a chance to pick their voters, because that’s what this is about: finding their way around the Democratic process.”
The results make it look like Democrats used an Etch A Sketch, said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who framed their final product a guide to “gerrymandering 101.”
Republicans would have a definite role in map-making if a law finalizing the districts isn’t signed before the end of June, which is likely a major motivation for another GOP complaint: that Democrats are using flawed, outdated American Community Survey, or ACS, information to draw the maps when they should wait for the latest census data to arrive later this summer, after the end-of-June deadline that puts the map-making process into the hands of a commission with an even number of Republicans and Democrats.
But the GOP isn’t alone in faulting Democrats for basing the districts on the ACS.
CHANGE Illinois and a coalition of community groups including the Better Government Association, the Latino Policy Forum, the Black Chamber of Commerce and Asian Americans Advancing Justice reject the maps, and say the survey sampling means some 41,877 people were left out or undercounted.
“The undercount is likely to have a greater effect on people of color. Black communities have historically been underrepresented, under-resourced, and targeted by large-scale misinformation campaigns designed to further disenfranchise them. The ACS data collection did not have the benefit of the historic, people-powered effort and state funding that the census did to ensure communities were counted, particularly Black communities,” the group said in a press release issued Friday night. “Asian American and Latinx communities, as well as the fastest growing counties of Kendall, Kane, Champaign, and Monroe, also are highly likely to be undercounted in the ACS sampling.”
State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, a Democrat from Cicero who chairs the Illinois House redistricting committee, called the criticism disappointing.
“We had like over 45 hearings,” she said. “We had a lot of feedback from the community. We had all kinds of presentations, there was a lot of information that came in.”
Hernandez said that valuable input helped to comprise the proposed new maps — and that Republicans also had an opportunity during those hearings to give, and hear, feedback.
“It doesn’t surprise me what they’re saying because they’re looking for a shot at something to go their way,” she said. “They’re going to say what they’re going to say, they want a shot at a map being their own, for obvious reasons.”
She said there will be more opportunity for input during four scheduled legislative hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons; the maps introduced on Friday are not “set in stone” she said.
The coalition of reform and community organizations are urging lawmakers to go to court to get the map deadlines pushed back so there’s time to use the data from the 2020 census.
“The decisions by our current lawmakers will disenfranchise tens of thousands of voices for a decade by creating representative maps that do not include them. How is this equity for Illinois? We owe it to the people of this state and the community organizations that overcame incredible challenges to ensure an accurate Census count to wait for the census results. We owe it to vulnerable people who were hesitant to fill out the census and did so, despite concerns for their personal safety, to make sure they are counted,” the organizations said in their statement.
But they’re also turning the pressure on to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, noting that the Democratic governor had repeatedly pledged to veto partisan maps.
Republicans likewise are publicly calling for Pritzker to veto whatever maps the Democratic-controlled legislature sends him.
“This is a decision that Gov. Pritkzer has to make. This is a sad day for democracy but he has a role to play in this. If he allows this process to go forward and signs a map that was made in such a flawed way, and such a partisan way, then he’s contributing to this downfall of people’s faith in the way that our process words,” said state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville.
Pritzker was in Springfield on Monday but had no public events.
His office issued a non-committal statement in response to questions about his impression of the redistricting proposal.
“The Governor looks forward to reviewing the maps the General Assembly sends to his desk and is also looking forward to hearing input from community members and advocates during the legislative hearings taking place this week,” the statement from press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh said.
Video: More from Springfield. Watch our interviews with state Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) and state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria).
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky