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Republicans tie Democratic mapmaking effort to latest indictment

Republicans tie Democratic mapmaking effort to latest indictment

Data sources used to draw maps are still unclear

By RAYMON TRONCOSO
Capitol News Illinois
rtroncoso@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Republicans on Wednesday tried to tie an indictment of a longtime lieutenant of former House Speaker Michael Madigan to the Democrats’ effort to redraw legislative district lines ahead of the General Assembly’s May 31 adjournment.

The latest indictment came Wednesday with just six days remaining in the legislative session, as former Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes faced charges of lying to a grand jury about his knowledge of Madigan’s involvement with a prominent lobbyist who has also been indicted. Madigan has not been charged.

Republicans on a redistricting committee used the indictment as a new line of attack, complementing their claims that Democrats are trying to forge ahead with inadequate population data and a complete lack of transparency as to how the maps were drawn.

Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, pointed out that Mapes was heavily involved in Madigan’s redistricting efforts, the most recent of which took place in 2011 after the previous decennial census.

“The new boss has the old boss’s ways. It came home to roost today in the indictment of the man who used to run this entire operation, and whose shadow was cast across these proceedings,” Butler said. “Let’s get transparent, let’s get the data out.”

Butler also referenced the newly proposed maps for the Illinois Supreme Court, suggesting that Democrats would handpick justices to uphold their legislative maps if challenged in courts. Thomas Kilbride, a former Illinois Supreme Court justice who lost his seat in a retention bid last November, wrote a legal opinion keeping map redistricting in the hands of the majority party in 2016.

The proposed maps released by House and Senate Democrats Friday evening were reportedly drawn using data from the American Community Survey, which is conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau to collect national population and demographic information. Democrats have not said what other data went into the maps.

The ACS data is routinely used by municipal, state and federal government and is considered accurate for estimating the general population but is less accurate within smaller geographic units compared to the decennial census.

Due to delays in the 2020 Census amid the COVID-19 pandemic, only general population data is currently available, and the U.S. Census Bureau says demographic data from the census will not be available until August at the earliest.

If Democrats cannot come to an agreement on maps by June 30, an eight-person bipartisan commission would take over the process. And if that commission fails to produce maps by Aug. 10, the name of a ninth member from one of the two parties would be drawn at random by the secretary of state and added to the group, and the deadline is extended to Oct. 5.

In separate witness testimony, retired social worker C. W. Chan and Darek Lau of the Coalition for A Better Chinese Community testified that using the proposed maps would harm the representation of Chinese Americans in state government.

Aviva Miriam Patt told the committee that the map destroyed the voting power of the Orthodox Jewish community in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago by dividing them into three different districts where their influence as a voting bloc would be negligible.

“I’ve worked on redistricting for 40 years…and I know that the compromises need to be made, and not every community’s wish list can be granted, but looking at your map I can’t see what the compromising interest that was met by dividing our community, precluding the creation of being just one Jewish influenced district in Illinois,” Patt said. “Don’t divide us, don’t disappear us, and don’t disempower us.”

Patt requested that the General Assembly wait until the release of the official census demographic data to draw new maps.

Siri Hibbler, of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, argued using ACS data rather than census data would similarly harm the representation of Black Illinois residents.

She requested Democrats “slow down and take another look at the constitution and see what you can do before you just put maps out here that we’re all going to be stuck with for the next 10 years.”

Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, of Cicero, the Democratic Chair of the House Redistricting Committee, referred to the proposed maps as drafts that would be updated “as soon as we can” in final maps that would address concerns raised by witnesses regarding the diluted influence of vulnerable and minority populations.

Butler, Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, and various witnesses suggested the General Assembly could put forward an alternate plan consistent with the constitution or appeal to the courts for a solution in order to wait until census data is available.

State governments in Oregon, Michigan and California have asked courts to push back similar constitutional deadlines for redistricting due to the delay in census data.

Chicago Democrats Sen. Elgie Sims and Rep. Curtis Tarver, in back-to-back responses to Republican lawmakers, said they were free to petition the courts outside of the redistricting hearings, which should be reserved for witnesses to provide feedback on the map process as outlined in the constitution.

 

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.

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