Illinois Democrats have advanced a new legislative map that they hope will pass legal muster and maintain their grip on power for the next 10 years, but Republicans and others continue to rail against the proposed new election districts and the process by which they were created.
On Tuesday, State Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield), spokesperson for House Republicans on the issue of redistricting, called the entire process a “farce” and a “charade.”
An opinion piece written by conservative columnist Henry Olsen in The Washington Post on Wednesday called the Illinois legislative map “a textbook-perfect example of why partisan gerrymandering is a cancer eating away at our democracy.”
Democrats created the new map after an earlier version signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June was challenged as unconstitutional because it used estimated population numbers rather than the most recent census data.
Ernest Herrera, staff attorney at the Mexican American Legal and Education Fund which filed a lawsuit challenging the original map, explained the problem.
“They used the American Community Survey (ACS). And that survey, done by the Census Bureau every year does not actually count everybody like the census does every 10 years,” said Herrera. “And that difference is important because our case law in the United States Supreme Court based in the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution says that (the maps have to be drawn) on a population basis.”
Pritzker, who campaigned saying he favored the creation of fairer maps, said at a news conference Thursday that he had not yet reviewed the new maps.
“They haven’t even been sent to me yet,” said Pritzker. He also rejected the notion that the new districts were drawn to ensure continued Democratic control of the state.
“It isn’t about party affiliation it really is about the diversity of our state and the representation that people who sometimes haven’t been represented all that well over decades should now be represented,” said Pritzker.
But Republican state Sen. Jason Barickman said Pritzker had broken his campaign promise.
“The governor can’t be trusted on this issue,” said Barickman. “The governor campaigned and promised to voters that he would support an independent commission drawing these maps and he’d in fact veto any map drawn by politicians. He’s broke his word with voters.”
Republican state Rep. Avery Bourne said the process was just too rushed.
Asked if the new maps were fairer than the previous iterations that had resulted in multiple legal challenges, Bourne said: “My initial answer is ‘no’ (but) who really knows? They dropped these maps at the very last second — literally less than an hour before we were able to vote on them.”
She said the whole process had allowed for very little public input or scrutiny.
“We got very little time to actually digest them after community advocate after community advocate had asked for up to 30 days to review (the maps) so that we know that they are fair,” said Bourne. “I also believe fundamentally if politicians are drawing the maps it’s going to be unfair.”
Bourne said the process showed “the worst of politics.”
“The way that we draw districts is hugely consequential for policy decisions for the next decade and voters need to have a choice to pick who represents them rather than having a map drawn to protect incumbents,” said Bourne. “And that’s what we are seeing, a map drawn to keep the political class in power and to keep voters from having a true shot at having someone they choose to represent them.”
Note: The above story is based on the comments made by Barickman, Bourne and Herrera on “Chicago Tonight.” Democrats were invited but declined to participate in the discussion.