Latest congressional maps draw more criticism
Republican Rep. Tim Butler (front), of Springfield, and Democratic Rep. Lisa Hernandez (rear left), of Cicero, listen to testimony during a hearing of the House Redistricting Committee on Tuesday at the Capitol in Springfield. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Peter Hancock)
Democratic chair concedes politics played a role in redistricting
By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The latest draft of a new congressional district map for Illinois met with much of the same criticism as the first draft during a House committee hearing Tuesday.
The latest proposal from legislative Democratic leaders was released Saturday. It divides the state into 17 congressional districts, one fewer than the state currently has due to its population loss since the 2010 U.S. Census.
“We need look no further than the concrete corridor that is the proposed 13th and the rural monoliths of the 12th and 15th to see that this is a gerrymandered map,” Joel Funk, a resident of the Metro East area, said during virtual testimony before the House Redistricting Committee.
Under the proposed map, a new 13th District would be formed along a narrow strip of land stretching roughly 170 miles from East St. Louis to Champaign.
The 12th District, in southern Illinois, would be a combination of two existing districts because that is an area of the state that saw the most dramatic population loss. It would pit incumbent Republican Reps. Mike Bost and Mary Miller into a contest against each other.
The proposed new 15th District would be an oddly-shaped chunk of central Illinois that wraps around the proposed 13th District, starting with a portion of Collinsville in the Metro East area, stretching east to the Indiana border, wrapping around the city of Champaign and stretching west again to the Mississippi River, from an area just north of Edwardsville northward to an area just south of the Quad Cities.
The proposal also calls for a new 16th District that would cover much of southern and northern Illinois that would put incumbent Republicans Reps. Darin LaHood and Adam Kinzinger into the same district.
“This is the kind of map that convinces more Americans that their vote doesn't matter, and pushes to those that still bother to vote further apart into tribes unable to communicate with each other,” Funk said.
William Sullivan, a resident of Chicago’s northwest side, also criticized the maps, saying it divides neighborhoods in his area unnecessarily.
“It would really have to be called the incumbent retention map because the 5th and the 9th districts really have nothing in common,” he said. “Neighborhoods are just strung together like spaghetti on the wall.”
A number of people from the area that makes up the 3rd District, on Chicago’s southwest side, urged lawmakers to keep the core of that district intact. Much of that area would be divided into proposed new 4th and 6th districts.
An analysis of the latest proposal by the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the proposal a grade of F on all three categories that it measures – partisan fairness; competitiveness; and geographic features. It said the maps would create a “significant Democratic advantage,” that the proposed districts would be “very uncompetitive relative to other maps that could have been drawn,” and that it creates non-compact districts that include “more county splits than typical.”
During the hearing, Republican Rep. Tom Demmer, of Dixon, asked Democratic committee Chairwoman Lisa Hernandez, of Cicero, directly whether the maps were drawn to increase Democrats’ partisan advantage.
“I would say politics plays a part,” Hernandez said.
The Senate Redistricting Committee is tentatively scheduled to hold a hearing on the maps Wednesday. But as of late Tuesday afternoon, no notice of a hearing had been posted on the General Assembly’s website.
Lawmakers have only two scheduled days remaining in the fall veto session. Democratic leaders have said they intend to approve new congressional maps before the veto session ends Thursday.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.