Suburban redistricting committee members outline priorities
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Six suburban state lawmakers have landed assignments to the House and Senate committees guiding the once-a-decade fight to redraw the state's political map for members of Congress and the General Assembly. Irrespective of party stances, each brings a specific set of suburban-centric concerns to the table. Here's what you can expect from them as hearings take place throughout the state in the coming weeks.
State Sen. Kirk Dillard
Dillard, of Hinsdale, an early and vocal critic of the lack of Senate redistricting hearings in the suburbs, says he's focused on making sure suburban "communities of interest" are aligned. In his DuPage County district, Dillard said, "it seems to make sense to keep Hinsdale, Clarendon Hills, Willowbrook, and Oak Brook together because they share Hinsdale schools."
With a boom in Illinois' Latino population, Dillard said Democrats, in charge of the remap process, will be challenged to redraw to include Latino growth without diluting African-American representation.
"We have Latino pockets in the suburbs now that involve Republicans," Dillard said. "But in the city there is going to be some real scalpel-like precision work by Democrats to balance African-American and Latino seats."
State Rep. Mike Fortner
Fortner, a West Chicago Republican and winner of a recent Ohio redistricting map-drawing contest, is widely considered to be a sort of political mapmaking guru.
His main priority is "getting the big picture right."
At hearings coming up throughout the state, he said, it will be important to discuss what criteria matter in drawing new boundaries.
"If you have to split communities, how do you do it? Do you follow roads, do you follow previous districts?" he asked. "It's too easy to draw a map, and think about our principles after the fact."
Fortner said it will be interesting to see how the new Illinois Voting Rights Act — which requires the General Assembly to draw districts specifically to ensure representation for racial and minority communities — comes into play.
Fortner said he plans to meet with House Redistricting Chair Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat, to talk about how the current schedule of hearings was developed, and why some meetings are scheduled in opposite parts of the state on the same day.
"How that's going to work?," he asked.
State Rep. Tim Schmitz
Rep. Tim Schmitz, a Batavia Republican, said new political boundaries, when possible, shouldn't divide suburban communities. Now, several towns are split among multiple representatives in the General Assembly.
"That's going to be my crux. Our towns should be kept together," he said.
Like Fortner, Schmitz expressed concern about the location of hearings, saying there's no way a single lawmaker could make it to all of them.
Still, he said suburban residents are going to be interested in the redistricting process because of the big changes to their representation that could be coming.
"We've had a large growth of population," Schmitz said. "Kane, Will, Kendall, that whole corridor exploded out there, so people are going to be curious about extra House seats."
State Sen. Dan Duffy
Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, has seen his district grow by roughly 35,000 new residents since the 2000 census. He expects to see the boundaries of his district change and is aware he could even be "mapped out" of his district.
"I know I'm a target because I've been outspoken regarding a lack of transparency and a lack of ethics guidelines in Illinois," Duffy said. "I know being vocal has been put a target on my back ... but I'm not concerned about it. I can't do anything about it."
Duffy also expressed concern about the schedule and location of the Senate hearings, which are under way. "I definitely feel like we are just going through the motions and it is all window dressing. On April 16th they have scheduled two hearings, on the same day, in different locations. It is going to be difficult, if not impossible, for even the Senate committee members to attend both of those hearings."
Duffy called for additional hearings after a proposed map is presented, noting "that is when the public's input is the most critical."
State Sen. Michael Noland
Noland, an Elgin Democrat and vice chair of the Senate redistricting committee, noted that much of his 22nd District area, which includes Elgin, East and West Dundee, Carpentersville and Hanover Park, has significant growth, especially among its Latino and Indian and Pakistani communities.
"I want people in my area to weigh in and offer insights and concerns regarding what they think the map should look like," Noland said.
Noland said that according to some "preliminary discussions" with members of leadership, "there's general agreement that we need to have a few more redistricting hearings."
Noland expressed frustration at the pace of the redistricting process, and said he has been "prodding the consultants" who are working with the census numbers to compile the data that will be used in the remap.
"We should have had it by now. We needed it yesterday," Noland said Friday. "As soon as we have the data, as soon as we have the numbers, I would imagine on some level... that information would become available."
State Sen. Matt Murphy
Murphy, a Palatine Republican on the Senate Redistricting Committee, noted that technological advancements over the last 10 years allow more people to engage in the exercise of drawing the map.
"You have that many people who can go through and understand it better, and there are more people who are informed. And hopefully it will be something that's pretty reasonable."
Yet, Murphy said he thinks "a lot of this is a dog and pony show. ... I'm not sure how much impact these committee meetings will have on the final production."
Because the three bodies that control the mapmaking process — the House, the Senate and the governor's office — are all in the hands of Democrats, the remap process could more easily be decided by a legislative vote. In the past, when Republicans and Democrats shared control of the legislature, a redistricting commission — with a drawing from a hat to break a stalemate — sometimes decided among competing maps.
Still, Murphy said, "You've got to keep making the case, like a lot of things you do in Springfield."
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