Illinois Democrats release proposed new state legislative districts
Proposed maps of new legislative boundaries have been released by the redistricting committees of the Illinois Senate and House.
The maps, showing proposed new legislative districts that could have a significant impact on whether Illinois residents are equally represented in state government, incorporates suggestions gathered during more than 45 public hearings held across the state, Senate Democrats said in a news release announcing the proposals Friday night. But they released no figures with the maps, such as on each district's political or demographic makeup.
The public will have the opportunity to provide feedback during additional hearings that will take place next week, the Democrats said. The full General Assembly ultimately will vote on the maps.
The four hearings next week are at:
• 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 25 -- Joint House and Senate hearing
• 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 25 -- House hearing
• 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 26 -- Joint House and Senate hearing
• 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 26 -- Senate hearing
These are scheduled to be hybrid hearings with the opportunity for in-person and virtual testimony. Details can be found online at www.ilga.gov.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years with the new Census, and each state is required to draw new boundaries for legislative districts in response to shifts in population. Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly have wrangled over the possible use of census estimates, as opposed to official numbers, to redraw state legislative and congressional district maps.
It's a decision that could have a significant impact on whether Illinois residents are equally represented in Springfield as well as the U.S. Congress, and one that is particularly important for communities of color and other underrepresented groups.
"Redistricting is about making sure all voices are heard, and that's exactly what this map accomplishes," said Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, in the news release Friday. "This is a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state and ensures every person receives equal representation in the General Assembly."
But Republican leaders in the process criticized the maps quickly.
"In a disappointing, but not surprising move, the Democratic Majorities tonight posted a new politician-drawn legislative map designed behind locked doors to cement their grip on power at the expense of Illinois families," said state Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, in a statement. "The Majority Democrats are rejecting the calls of millions of Illinoisans who no longer want politicians drawing their own districts and picking their own voters."
Delays in the 2020 census caused by the pandemic and other factors mean the official, block-level census numbers needed for legislative redistricting won't be available until Aug. 16, weeks after the June 30 deadline set in the state constitution for completing the process.
The constitution does not specify what data lawmakers are to use when redrawing maps, although they have traditionally relied on final, official numbers from each decennial census. But this year Democrats, in control of the process, have suggested using other data such as the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, which is based on a sample of households around the country.
If lawmakers don't meet the June 30 deadline, a bipartisan commission could take it over. But some have argued that would be just as political.
Even the nature of that commission has come under debate. And Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, a Democrat from Hillside, stepped back from supporting the independent commission in comments earlier this month.
• Daily Herald staff writer JJ Bullock and Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.