Illinois Democrats Tweak Legislative Boundaries In New Release Of Political Maps

Illinois redistricting maps
In this file photo from May 2011, redistricting maps are displayed at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Legislators this week are once again working on new legislative district maps, and released a new set of proposals Thursday. Seth Perlman / Associated Press, File Photo
Illinois redistricting maps
In this file photo from May 2011, redistricting maps are displayed at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Legislators this week are once again working on new legislative district maps, and released a new set of proposals Thursday. Seth Perlman / Associated Press, File Photo

Illinois Democrats Tweak Legislative Boundaries In New Release Of Political Maps

Illinois Democrats revised proposed maps of new House and Senate boundaries Thursday with changes to Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, North Lawndale and some downstate Republican legislative districts in a move the GOP dismissed as “dishonest.”

This new configuration for the 59 state Senate districts and 118 House districts represents the second iteration of proposed legislative maps released in the past week by Democrats, who attributed the latest changes to community feedback from public hearings.

Demographic summaries released late Thursday by House Democrats showed 15 newly drawn House districts were majority African American, while 14 newly drawn districts have 50 percent or more Latino population.

Those numbers are pretty consistent with the racial demography from 10 years ago, when current House boundaries were imposed. Then, there were 16 majority African American and 14 majority Latino House districts.

The Senate did not release comparable data late Thursday.

The decennial redistricting process represents one of the major pieces of unfinished business for the Democratic-led General Assembly as a planned Monday adjournment looms. The outcome carries high political stakes because the Democratic-friendly maps will be in place for the next decade and could help the party retain control of the legislature.

“What should stand out about this proposed map is how similar districts look compared to our current map,” said state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, chairwoman of the House Redistricting Committee.

“The changes we made not only reflect testimony provided the last couple of days from members of the public but also include revisions to address concerns raised by Republicans,” she said in a statement.

Hernandez’ statement indicated the changes would “keep more of the Orthodox Jewish community united” and restore “the southern part of the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago to its current legislative district.”

A spokeswoman for Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said the changes involve the 9th and 16th House districts in Chicago, and the revised maps let eight House Republicans keep individual districts rather than face potential primaries against colleagues.

The earlier legislative maps Democrats produced and released last Friday combined several GOP incumbents into the same districts, leaving them with the difficult choice of ending their legislative careers or moving in order to stay in familiar political terrain.

The revised maps were nonetheless not welcomed by Republicans, who have argued Democrats are using faulty demographic information to redraw political boundaries.

Even organizations that have called for a mapmaking process independent of political parties have expressed frustration over the lack of data used by Democrats to draw their proposed maps.

U.S. Census data that normally would be available to Illinois and other states by now has been delayed until late summer because of the pandemic, leaving Illinois to make reapportionment decisions based merely on population estimates and not real headcounts.

“Round two of the House Democratic legislative maps are as dishonest as the ones released last Friday,” said House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, in a statement.

“Despite the flowery rhetoric about these changes, the Illinois House Democrats allowed their members to draw their own legislative districts with phony data,” Durkin said. “It is now on Gov. Pritzker to live up to his pledge in 2019 and veto this poor excuse for democracy.”

The Thursday evening dump of new legislative maps was accompanied by redrawn political boundaries for the Cook County Board of Review.

Democrats still have not released new congressional boundaries that will account for the loss of one seat from Illinois’ current slate of 18 seats in Congress because of a slight population decline statewide.

There is a growing sense in Democratic congressional circles that no such map will emerge until after Illinois receives actual U.S. Census data to diminish the chances of any future GOP legal challenges to those boundaries.

If that happens, that would put Illinois Democrats in the uncomfortable spot of having to explain why they waited for quality data on one set of political maps yet greenlighted other political maps for the legislature, state Supreme Court and Board of Review that were built with potentially less reliable demographic data.

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.