House speaker says minority representation key to remap effort

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, a Democrat from Hillside, stepped back from supporting an independent commission on legislative redistricting in comments Wednesday to the Illinois Press Association/Illinois Press Foundation.

Welch wrote a 2016 op-ed for the Village Free Press in Proviso Township in which he advocated for an independent mapmaking commission to set new legislative districts after the 2020 census. On Wednesday he declined to support the creation of an independent commission when asked about his 2016 op-ed and instead directed his answer to the idea of "one person, one vote."

"In 2016, if you read the entire op-ed, I talked about a map that makes sure minorities are represented, and we believe in one person, one vote," Welch said. "What I am doing here in Springfield right now is making sure that maps are put together where minorities are represented, where we reflect the great diversity of the state, where we respect one person, one vote."

Under the Illinois Constitution, lawmakers have until June 30 to draw a new map, but no census data will available for redistricting until Aug. 16. Republicans and Democrats have clashed over whether a map can be drawn without full census data and whether the June 30 deadline can be missed. The Democratic majority is in control of the redistricting process.

"What's also important to understand here is there is a constitutional requirement that must be followed, so we are following that Constitution, and anyone that suggests we ignore the constitution is asking that we ignore the oath we took on Jan. 13 when we became state legislators," Welch said.

Welch opened the Illinois Press Association/Illinois Press Foundation annual convention Wednesday. The virtual convention continues through Friday.

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