Newly proposed Illinois legislative maps already being blasted as inaccurate, unfair
Newly proposed legislative maps that were drawn by the General Assembly's Democratic majority and that would shape the state House and state Senate for the next decade already are coming under fire from Republicans and independent organizations.
Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods blasted the maps for what he called a lack of fine detail that makes it difficult to determine in what district some homes sit.
McConchie also faulted the mapmakers for stretching some Republican-held swing districts so they cover more conservative-leaning areas -- a move that helps solidify Democratic representation in neighboring districts.
Voters should be picking their representatives, McConchie said, "not the other way around."
Criticism also came from an alliance of 13 groups that advocate for good government, racial equality and other causes. With members including the League of Women Voters and the Better Government Association, the coalition decried the mapmakers' use of population estimates rather than actual census figures, saying the process undercounted Illinoisans by tens of thousands of people.
"The decisions by our current lawmakers will disenfranchise tens of thousands of voices for a decade by creating representative maps that do not include them," the groups said in a joint statement. "Everyone should count. Everyone deserves representation."
The proposed maps were released Friday night. They can be viewed at ilsenateredistricting.com/proposed-legislative-map and ilhousedems.com/redistricting/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Proposed-Legislative-Districts.pdf.
Redistricting occurs every 10 years after the national census. States are required to draw new boundaries for legislative districts in response to shifts in population.
The number of Illinois' legislators -- 59 senators and 118 representatives -- doesn't change, only the boundaries of their districts.
The Illinois constitution doesn't specify what data lawmakers are to use when redrawing maps, although they have traditionally relied on final census figures.
Delays in the 2020 census caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues mean the official, block-level census numbers won't be available until Aug. 16, weeks after the June 30 deadline set in the state constitution for completing the redistricting process.
As such, state Democrats relied on other data, including the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, to draw the proposed maps. That survey is based on a sample of households around the country.
The maps also incorporate suggestions gathered during public hearings held across the state.
It's up to the General Assembly to approve district boundaries. If lawmakers don't meet the June 30 deadline, a bipartisan commission could take over the process.
Mark Shaw, chairman of the Lake County Republican Party, feels the mapmakers should have waited for the actual population count to draw the maps. The Democrats rushed the project, he said, to maintain control of the process.
"Using approximations or speculations about the populations in certain areas is wrong," Shaw said.
As for the maps themselves, Shaw said he hadn't yet seen versions with definitive boundaries.
"The devil's always in the details," he said.
McConchie said he knows of one district that would go from including parts of two counties to parts of 12 under the proposed map.
"This is not the way democracy is supposed to function," said McConchie, whose 26th Senate District includes parts of Cook, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.
Republican state Rep. Tom Weber of Lake Villa said the mapmaking process is proof an independent commission should determine district boundaries, not politicians.
"The people of Illinois deserve better," said Weber, whose 64th District includes parts of McHenry and Lake counties.
Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego said she believes legislative staffers worked hard to ensure the maps follow the law, and that the people who shared input during public hearings are represented.
"Now, as a legislator, I'm going to look to make sure that that is what, in fact, happens," said Kifowit, whose 84th House District includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties.
The public can provide more feedback during additional hearings this week.
Hearings are set for 4 p.m. Tuesday, 6 p.m. Tuesday, 4 p.m. Wednesday and 6 p.m. Wednesday. In-person and virtual testimony will be accepted. For details, visit ilga.gov.
• Daily Herald staff writers Steve Zalusky and JJ Bullock, and Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.