Redistricting without Census figures a challenge to Democrats
Springfield, IL – The Illinois AFL-CIO is monitoring legislators’ efforts to complete a difficult legislative redistricting map amid impending deadlines, Republican complaints and a lack of needed Census information.
The General Assembly has until June 30 to pass new legislative maps. The proposed maps were made public last week, creating 59 Senate districts and 118 House districts without benefit of new U.S. Census figures.
The census has been delayed under the Trump administration in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the Democrat-dominated Legislature misses the deadline, it will lose authority over the remapping to an eight-member bipartisan committee, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
If that group goes until Aug. 10 without a map, a ninth member’s name would be drawn from a hat, making a 50-50 chance that the small minority of Republicans in the Legislature would get to draw the new map, as per the Illinois constitution.
House and Senate redistricting committees have been holding public hearings on the proposed maps and explaining that they are using alternatives to the census count, including the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which used sampling to estimate recent population changes.
Voting rights groups including the League of Women Voters said the Legislature should instead ask the Illinois Supreme Court for relief from the constitution’s deadlines, as happened in California and Oregon. Republicans called the proposed new maps “gerrymandering.”
THE LONG PROCESS
Sen. Omar Aquino, chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, described the process that led to creation of the proposals.
“This proposed map is the product of countless hours of testimony from advocacy, community and grassroots organizations, as well as individuals who care deeply about their communities,” he said. “Their passion and dedication were vital to this process, which has resulted in a fair map that will not only ensure that broad racial and geographic diversity is reflected in the General Assembly, but also maintain our status as a leader in the nation for minority representation in the state legislature.”
On Friday, the redistricting committees released an updated version of the proposed maps including changes suggested by community groups, advocacy groups and individuals at public meetings. The changes, among others, will keep the Orthodox Jewish community more united and restore a Chicago neighborhood to its current district.
“After 50 public hearings across the state and listening to hours of testimony, the House and Senate Democrats have put together a product out state can be proud of,” said Rep. Lisa Hernandez, chair of the House Redistricting Committee.
“What should stand out about this proposed map is how similar districts look compared to our current map. This is the same map a renowned expert says is a model for the nation for minority representation. The changes we made not only reflect testimony provided over the last couple of days from members of the public, but also include revisions to address concerns raised by Republicans.
‘SUBSTANTIAL EFFECT’ ON UNION MEMBERS, WORKING FAMILIES
The Illinois AFL-CIO says the redistricting process will “have a substantial effect on representation for union members and all working families.”
“It’s crucial that the districts are true to the Voting Rights Act,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea said. “We also pay close attention to ensure that our Labor votes are not watered down. There are nearly two million union household voters in Illinois. Their voices must not be diminished.”
Democrats in the Legislature defended their process, noting that they held dozens of public hearings around the state to gather information, and that the state constitution does not specify that official census data must be used.
“Redistricting is about making sure all voices are heard, and that’s exactly what this map accomplishes,” said Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago), who chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee. “This is a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state and ensures every person receives equal representation in the General Assembly.”