Illinois Democrats pass gerrymandered congressional map hours after dropping final proposal

New Illinois congressional map for the next 10 years.
New Illinois congressional map for the next 10 years.(WGEM)
Updated: Oct. 28, 2021 at 8:54 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Statehouse Democrats worked late into the night Thursday to pass a new gerrymandered congressional map for the next 10 years.

Illinois lost a seat in Congress due to the loss of population of the past decade. However, the new partisan divide for the state’s delegation will be 14-3.

The map passed out of the Senate on a 41-18 vote. House Democrats barely passed the proposal on a 71-43 tally. Four representatives opted out of voting.

Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) said Gov. JB Pritzker and other Democrats had no interest in doing the best thing for the people of Illinois. He pleaded with Senate Democrats to stand up against the party and make a difference.

“Stop creating battle lines between the two sides and the two parties. Quit making everything about politics,” Barickman said. “You’ve got an opportunity to do something about this. Why don’t you stand up and do the right thing?”

Democrats argue the public had a say in the map

Senate President Don Harmon said the public had two weeks to see the proposal. He noted Democrats made changes to reflect feedback from citizens and lawmakers. Although, Republicans complained that the majority party didn’t allow for another redistricting hearing once they had the final proposal ready.

Republicans also noted that Democratic staff met with congressional Democrats to hear what they wanted for new districts. Harmon stressed that he never participated in those “secret meetings.” He said Republicans made discussions with stakeholders seem sinister when they weren’t.

“We all have meetings with stakeholders in developing legislation,” Harmon said. “And then we have public hearings where those ideas are hashed out. The product of all of that input we received - from the public hearings, through the portal, through email submissions, through meetings with stakeholders - is embodied in the map before us today.

The Senate voted on the proposal nearly three hours after Democratic leaders dropped the final map proposal. This map made slight changes to districts in the Chicagoland area. Democrats drew Rep. Marie Newman (D-La Grange) into the same district as Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago).

Newman is a freshman lawmaker in Washington who won Dan Lipinski’s seat in the most recent election. Now, Newman could face off against Garcia in his majority-Latino district.

This proposal could leave Newman in an intense primary in Garcia’s 4th district. However, Newman could also challenge fellow Democrat Rep. Sean Casten in the 6th.

Is there enough minority representation?

Sponsors believe this map can maintain the state’s status as a national leader for minority representation. Some advocates note that Illinois now has a larger Latino population than Arizona. That led Democrats to create a second majority Latino congressional district.

Even so, some hoped to see Democrats create a majority Latino district on the Southwest side of Chicago. Rep. Angie Guerrero-Cuellar currently serves in former House Speaker Mike Madigan’s district. Her election to the House seat showed the sign of a new era for her district. But Guerrero-Cuellar argued this map breaks the area apart into separate congressional districts.

“I am a representation of the increase of the Latino population in the state of Illinois. And that was not respected,” Guerrero-Cuellar said.

She also noted that colleagues in the House disrespected her during the mapping process. Guerrero-Cuellar said she is also upset with some Democrats in higher elected office.

The map also pitted Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) against Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria). Their primary would be for the new 16th congressional district.

Mary Miller (R-Oakland) and Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) could battle for the 12th district, the southern-most district of the state. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) is left in a new 15th district with a large area of Republican support.

Butler: Map “polarizes our politics in Illinois”

Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) thanked Guerrero-Cuellar for standing up for what she believed in. He also noted it took “a lot of guts” to oppose the map proposal created by the majority. He blamed Democrats for splitting communities apart again.

“You’re going to have people who want to find moderation in our politics,” Butler said. “And boy, that’s a hard thing to find these days, to find moderation in our politics. But what you’re doing is drawing a map that polarizes our politics in Illinois at a time that we don’t need polarization in this country.”

Still, House Redistricting Chair Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) believes the map reflects the diversity of Illinois. She stressed that it can expand access to Latino representation like never before.

“No matter how you interpret the map to be laid out, it’s a map that reflects that diversity, that gives opportunity. And I just truly believe that it’s a good map laid out,” Hernandez said.

The map now heads to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk for his signature of approval.

You can read the map language here.

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