Illinois Democrats pushed through their plans Friday night to redraw the district boundaries of the state legislature, state Supreme Court and the Cook County Board of Review – despite objections from Republicans and groups concerned with minority representation.
Movement on the politically-charged political remap, which could lock in Democratic majorities in the General Assembly and the state’s high court for the next decade, dominated a busy legislative day in Springfield as a planned Monday adjournment looms with a stack of still-unfinished business.
The state Senate and, later, the House both approved new legislative maps on partisan roll calls with the top Democrat in the Senate insisting the new political boundaries reflect the true demographic face of Illinois.
“These are fair maps that live up to our promise to reflect the diversity of this state,” said Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park.
The delay in the census, in part due to the pandemic and also due to unsuccessful efforts by the Trump administration to avoid counting noncitizens, is at the center of the debate over the Democratic efforts to redraw state and federal political districts.
“We would not be here if Donald Trump’s Commerce Department had even a passing interest — even a passing interest — in an accurate and a prompt census,” Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, said over audible groans from Republicans on the Senate floor.
* Daily Herald…
The admission that some districts were drawn for political reasons ignited a debate on the House floor about whether an independent commission should have been created. On the floor, Mazzochi called out Democrats who once supported an amendment to create an independent mapmaking panel: Conroy, Terra Costa Howard of Glen Ellyn, Kathleen Willis of Addison, Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg and Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego.
“Many in this room finally have a chance to put their vote where their mouth is and keep their promises to their districts,” Mazzochi said.
Kifowit called the Republicans’ argument “smoke and mirrors” in her floor statement, saying Democrats draw the map because they are the ones who win the votes in Illinois.
“Instead of putting up a smoke screen and talking about how this map is something, this map is just a snapshot in time,” Kifowit said. “The party is what connects with voters, represents the voters and therefore gets elected by the voters. That is the true essence of being an elected official.”
“Transparency is important in our government, and we have had ample time to alert the public about a variety of measures that will be undertaking today, and we have chosen, in every step of the process, to obfuscate the intentions to operate in secrecy and deprive the people of the state of Illinois, or in this case the people, the great people of Cook County, the opportunity to weigh in on to this subject and many more,” said state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria.
During their debate on the bills, Republicans questioned their colleagues across the aisle, but some of their questions — like who drew the maps — were met by Democrats who at times answered, “I don’t know.” […]
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said Republicans were “trying to run [out] the clock and gamble on a random drawing.”
“Let’s not pretend that the folks on the other side of the aisle — if the roles were reversed —would be doing anything differently,” Cassidy said.
* Capitol News Illinois…
Lawmakers also approved new maps for the Supreme Court districts outside of Cook County.
The Illinois Constitution requires that those districts have “substantially equal” populations, but the district maps have not been redrawn since the early 1960s.
Voters in those districts also elect judges for the appellate courts. Each of those districts also elects a justice for the Illinois Supreme Court.
Democrats currently have a 4-3 majority on the Supreme Court. But last year, Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat from the 3rd District covering north-central Illinois, lost his bid for retention, setting up an open race in 2022.
Representative Jay Hoffman said it was the Legislature’s constitutional duty to draw the map. He cited house republican spending on the redistricting political battle while questioning where their version of the map is.
“I have a 4 year old grandson,” Hoffman said. “He draws with Crayons. He’s drawn a better map than you guys have. You didn’t even put one together.”
* Center Square…
Several Democrats characterized Republicans as not working on changes to help disadvantaged communities, but Republicans countered Democrats are ignoring the voices of a broad array of ethic and religious minority groups who want the maps based on accurate data.
State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, criticized the origins of the bill hinting at the poor economic performance and gerrymandering under Democratic control.
“I too found the (original) title of this bill very peculiar,” Wilhour said. “Cemetery oversight … I don’t know if it was a hat tip to your voting block or a premonition of Illinois’ future under your leadership.”
Illinois lawmakers are likely to push back next year’s March primary election until June because of delays in receiving U.S. Census data they will use to draw new state congressional districts, three sources familiar the plan confirmed Friday.
Under the timeline for the currently scheduled March 15, 2022 primary, candidates could begin circulating their nominating petitions to appear on the ballot at the end of August, with filing set to begin on Nov. 22. If lawmakers don’t approve a congressional map until sometime in the fall, as expected, that would leave little time to qualify for the ballot under the current timetable.
The detailed census data that is usually used for the every-decade process of redrawing political boundaries is not expected until at least mid-August, delays due in large part to the pandemic as well as efforts by former President Donald Trump’s administration to eliminate noncitizens from the count.
While the state constitution sets a June 30 date for state legislative mapmaking, no such deadline exists for drawing up a congressional map. Challenges in federal court to new congressional map lines over issues like federal voting rights violations and one-person, one-vote requirements, are much more likely if the boundaries are drawn with estimated survey data rather than actual specific census figures.