Illinois Democrats Expected to Eliminate GOP-Held District on Redistricting Map

The new legislative map that Illinois Democrats are expected to approve Tuesday is likely to stamp out a Republican-held district and attempt to flip others blue, a move the state-GOP and community groups are decrying as a dubious power play.

Illinois, one of the few states in which Democrats control the redistricting process, lost a congressional seat due to population loss reported by Census Bureau, giving an ambitious state Democratic party an opportunity to redraw boundaries that will favor their success for years to come.

The redistricting will also benefit Democrats' hopes to retain a majority in the U.S. House next year. Democrats' GOP opposition and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have said the aggressive approach was rushed and carried out behind closed doors.

Democratic Representative Elizabeth Hernandez, who represents Cicero and leads the House Redistricting Committee, told the Associated Press on Monday that the new districts "better reflect the data we recently received from the U.S. Census and ensure communities are represented by the people of their choice."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

JBP with Harris
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 06: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, flanked by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (L) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) greets workers at a vaccination center set up at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 Union Hall on April 06, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Harris stressed the importance of getting vaccinated during her brief remarks to union members receiving the vaccine at the hall. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Tuesday's vote is a do-over of legislative maps that majority Democrats approved and Governor J.B. Pritzker signed earlier this year. Those maps prompted lawsuits from top Illinois Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a Latino civil rights organization, who argued that the maps were flawed and unconstitutional because they were based on population estimates from the American Community Survey rather than the 2020 census.

With the release of census data in August, Democratic leaders said the legislative maps would be adjusted and the Legislature would return to Springfield for another vote. That could ensure Democrats continue to control the map-making process, rather than risk having a judge throw out the maps or allow a bipartisan commission to take over the job — a process that could end with Republicans having the final say.

The new maps, which House and Senate Democrats posted online for the first time Monday afternoon, will be used in state legislative elections for the next decade.

Republicans have blasted Democrats, saying hastily called and sparsely attended public hearings held over the past week were a sham because boundaries were already being drawn in a secret, Democrat-controlled process.

Witnesses who testified at those hearings urged Democrats to post proposed maps and give the public as much as 30 days — or more — to weigh in before a vote is taken.

Ami Ghandi, senior counsel for the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, told members of the redistricting committees that it was "unreasonable" to expect voters to provide input without maps to react to. The Reverend Robin Hood, representing Black voters in Chicago, said people felt "disgust" at being left out of the process.

Jay Young, executive director of Common Cause Illinois, said the maps the Legislature will vote on Tuesday "will not be crafted of public input, but of pure politics."

"At each opportunity in this redistricting process, it's as if lawmakers went out of their way to ensure the creation of these maps had as little public input as possible," Young said.

Legislators have historically used census data for redistricting, or the process of redrawing political maps every 10 years to reflect changes in population and ensure, among other things, that districts are roughly equal in population. But with the release of 2020 census data delayed this year because of the pandemic, Democrats opted to use the American Community Survey to meet a June 30 deadline set in the state constitution.

If the Legislature didn't meet that deadline, an eight-member commission would be created with an equal number of Democrat and GOP lawmakers. If that group were unable to approve a map, a ninth member would be picked at random to break the tie.

Republicans are hoping that a federal judge will throw out Democrats' maps and order that process begin.

The Illinois Constitution doesn't set a deadline for congressional district maps to be approved, so legislators opted to wait for the census data before drawing those maps.