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updated: 5/24/2011 6:10 PM

House committee OKs new legislative districts

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  • House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie speaks to lawmakers about the proposed Illinois redistricting map Tuesday in Springfield.

      House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie speaks to lawmakers about the proposed Illinois redistricting map Tuesday in Springfield.
    Associated Press

  • Newly proposed redistricting maps are displayed in the hallways of the Capitol in Springfield.

      Newly proposed redistricting maps are displayed in the hallways of the Capitol in Springfield.
    Associated Press

 
By Deanna Bellandi Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- The once-a-decade exercise by lawmakers to redraw Illinois' political boundaries has left some questioning whether the proposed redistricting maps fairly represent a growing Latino population, and one prominent advocacy insisted Tuesday that they do not.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund testified at a state Capitol hearing that the proposed districts fracture Latino voters in some Chicago area districts and don't maximize Latino districts in suburban areas. Nina Perales, the group's vice president for litigation, said that "denies Latinos an opportunity to elect their candidates of choice."

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Perales declined to say whether MALDEF will sue if the legislature passes redistricting maps they don't like.

An Illinois House committee has approved new legislative districts despite MALDEF's opposition. The districts drawn by Democrats advanced on a party-line vote, although it's not clear when the full House might vote.

Other Latino groups have said the proposed redistricting maps are fair and balance the political interests of Latinos against that of other minority groups such as blacks, who saw their population numbers in Illinois shrink.

The number of people in Illinois who identified themselves as Hispanic grew at a sharp 32.5 percent rate, according to the latest national census, while the state's populations of both whites and blacks decreased.

Adjusting the state's political boundaries is a delicate process. Democrats are in charge of the process because they control the legislature and the governor's office.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said some have said that lawmakers can draw maps that will give more effective Latino representation and not come at the expense of black districts.

"Others have said that really isn't accurate and I think we have to look carefully to see whether it is or it isn't," Currie said.

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