Low local input at redistricting hearing

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The Illinois Senate and House Redistricting Committees held a joint hearing on the upcoming redrawing of legislative maps for metro east residents at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center in East. Louis last Monday evening. 

At that public hearing, which also took place virtually, there was minimal local input, with the majority of discussion coming from representatives of advocacy groups and elected officials on the committee. 

“The Illinois Constitution requires the General Assembly to undergo the redistricting process every 10 years to make sure our communities get fair and equal representation,” state Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Centreville) said near the beginning of the hearing. “The population of Illinois is constantly changing. We all know that our region of the state looks very different than it did a decade ago. Our goal today is to learn about those changes so nobody is overlooked.” 

This hearing was one of roughly 24 throughout the state on the once-in-a-decade redistricting process. 

Already a fraught political affair, drawing the legislative maps has become more contentious this year because the U.S. Census Bureau has told Illinois it will not have the data needed to do so until late September, and the Legislature must create a map by June 30 according to the state constitution. 

Democrats, who have a majority in the House and Senate, plan to meet that deadline by using data from the annual American Community Survey produced by the Census Bureau and, perhaps, private sources to draw the map. 

Republicans, who have longed pushed for an independent commission to redraw the maps, have filed a bill to have two members of the Illinois Supreme Court select 16 individuals to serve on a redistricting commission to redraw the maps.

Alternatively, they have argued the state should wait until after Census data is available for drawing a map by having a nine-member, bipartisan commission create the map. 

The deadline for that group to draw a new map is Oct. 5, per the Illinois Constitution. 

“Despite what my colleagues might claim, we don’t have to pass a map by June,” state Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) said at the hearing. “The real constitutional deadline is very clear, and it’s Oct. 5. The deadline for politicians to draw a map is June 30.” 

Much of the hearing involved committee members, in particular Belt and Plummer, speaking about their party’s arguments related to redistricting – either in response to public input or otherwise. 

In terms of public input, only a handful of individuals addressed the commission. That included two representatives of advocacy groups concerned about minority communities and undeserved populations, the mayor of East St. Louis, and citizens from as nearby as the Lebanon and Mascoutah areas and as far away as Peoria. The residents expressed concerns about gerrymandering and transparency in the map drawing process.

No one from Monroe County spoke at the hearing. 

There are still a few more hearings in other parts of the state scheduled before the Legislature begins drawing maps or decides to take another approach, though that appears unlikely. 

Individuals who want a say in which politicians represent them can attend one of these hearings or submit a self-drawn map using an online tool by clicking here

The General Assembly will consider those maps when creating the new one for the state.

The only requirements are that the maps are not based on racial or ethnic representation and must maintain “communities of interest” while remaining “compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population.”

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