As Illinois redistricting begins, public gets say
Illinois state senators are hearing from Chicago area residents who want a say in redistricting, the once-a-decade, highly contentious and political process that determines boundaries for legislative districts. It is about power and influence, and on Monday afternoon dozens of people showed up to tell senators how they want the boundaries drawn.
Kyle Hillman lives in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, and said the community is a poor fit for its current district.
"There's a high crime rate and it has one of the largest food kitchens in the metro area, and yet it is included in a district that is mostly consisting of lakefront homes in Evanston in New Trier," Hillman told the Senate Redistricting Committee.
Others complained their neighborhoods span several districts, watering down the community's influence.
"The greater Chinatown community area is a vibrant and cohesive community. Its interests are not served by being split into multiple districts, as it is currently," said Bernie Wong of the Chinese American Service League.
C. Betty Magness with the group IVI-IPO urged the senators to ignore politicians' addresses when they draft the boundaries.
"Districts should not be drawn to favor or discriminate against incumbents, candidates or parties," Magness said.
Another issue that came up Monday has to do with the addresses of prisoners. Right now, they are counted as residents where they are incarcerated, which is most often downstate.
"Prisoners should be counted where they originate from, instead of where they're currently housed," testified Lawrence Hill with the Cook County Bar Association.
The Illinois House could actually vote to make that change as early as Tuesday, according to the bill's sponsor, state Rep. LaShawn Ford. But the Chicago Democrat said it would not take effect until the next redistricting - ten years from now.
Monday's hearing was the first of at least five public forums for the Senate committee. Lawmakers have until the end of June to approve a new legislative map, or the process will be put in the hands of a special commission.