Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed newly-passed legislative district maps to govern elections in the Illinois General Assembly for the next decade despite opposition from Republicans and criticism from certain community groups who say they were ignored in the process.
“Illinois’ strength is in our diversity, and these maps help to ensure that communities that have been left out and left behind have fair representation in our government,” Pritzker said in a statement. “These district boundaries align with both the federal and state Voting Rights Acts, which help to ensure our diverse communities have electoral power and fair representation.”
Pritzker, who once promised to veto maps drawn by politicians, said earlier this week that he was reviewing the maps, but that "we have a constitutional requirement in the state of Illinois" to complete the maps this month.
His latest stance is a departure from comments he made as a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 when he promised to reject a political product, opting for an independent, nonpartisan commission to create the districts. Pritzker this month backed away from that pledge, saying only that he would nix an “unfair” map.
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The House voted 71-45 along party lines last week after 2 1/2 hours of debate to approve new district lines required after each decennial Census to reflect population shifts. It followed a similarly partisan Senate vote, 41-18, in favor of the maps drawn outside of the public eye but which Democrats contend were influenced by opinions voiced during 50 public hearings since April.
Republicans and grassroots activist groups have decried the process concluded without benefit of official U.S. Census numbers, which have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats contend they must be completed by June 25, which is simply the date on which they lose complete control of the work.
“The people deserve better than bad data, fake deadlines and sham hearings,” said Sen. Sue Rezin, a Morris Republican.
Pritzker criticized Republicans for not putting their own maps forward, saying they were "unwilling to participate."
Political lines must be redrawn after each decennial Census to reflect changes in population and ensure protection of voters’ rights. They must be compact, contiguous, and of equal population, among other things.
Critics wonder why the map can't wait for release of official U.S. Census numbers, which won't be available until late summer. A consultant who's on contract with House and Senate Democrats for $200,000 says the ACS numbers from before the 2010 Census varied only slightly from the official count.
The constitution requires the Legislature — currently controlled by Democratic super-majorities — to produce a map by June 30. After that, the project goes to a bipartisan commission. Each time that's occurred since 1980, the panel has deadlocked and the name of the partisan tie-breaker is drawn from a hat.
During House debate, several Republicans called out Democrats for previously espousing independent map-making, reading from news articles and newspaper endorsement questionnaires their pledges to take politics out of the process. Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi cried foul, contending it's not “inconsistent to say, ‘I believe the system should be different and nonetheless, I’m participating under the rules as they are today.'”
Virtually nothing was said about the cartography before the first map popped out late May 21. A revision appeared late Thursday which Hernandez maintained was “absolutely influenced” by public input. GOP Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon claimed there was an “intentional effort” to withhold details from taxpayers, adding, “It makes a mockery of this process.”
Republicans also criticized the surprise remap produced this week of state Supreme Court districts, the first revision in 60 years. The GOP claims it's because Democrats fear losing their majority on the high court. The House approved that map last Friday afternoon.