The General Assembly is meeting in special session today in Springfield for another look at the issue of redistricting maps following the 2020 census.
One area lawmaker says the process has been rushed and the review and any subsequent changes to the legislative district maps amounts to gerrymandering by state democrats.
87th District State Representative Tim Butler of Springfield, joined WLDS’s Gary Scott for the AM Conversation this morning. Butler attended the five hearings held over the last four days in Chicago, Collinsville, Peoria, and Aurora, and he says many Democrat lawmakers did not attend and most were virtual.
He says he feels that the late notice given about the hearings lead to little if any engagement by the public.
“It really underscores what a lot of the advocacy groups have talked about, in that doing these with little notice at odd times across the state and so on really discourages the public from participating in such an important thing. These are the maps that will determine who your representatives will be, who your legislators will be for the next ten years. It’s really unconscionable the way that the Democrats have handled this. I mean, really in my mind, they’ve gone out of their way to try and exclude the public from participation.”
State Democrats drew a new map during the Spring legislative session on the basis of 2019 American Community Surveys statistics rather than the 2020 decennial census information, which was released earlier this month.
According to an analysis done by the GOP, the Democrats proposed House districts have a population range of 29.88%, which is three times the allowable limit allowed by federal law made by the U.S. Supreme Court in equal representation rulings in 1975 and 2016.
Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund sued shortly after the maps were signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker saying they violated the 1-person, 1-vote provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
Republicans called for the maps to be declared void and shift the responsibility to a bipartisan committee, however, those efforts were rejected by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow last week. Butler says he believes the current partisan process is not how the public wants the process to be handled.
“They wanted more transparency. They really don’t want politicians drawing the maps behind closed doors which is what’s going on right now. Yesterday the Democrats unveiled their new, quote-unquote, revised map in mid-afternoon, scheduled a hearing for six pm last night on the new maps so people didn’t have hardly anytime to digest it, and now supposedly we are voting on these new maps today. We have another hearing scheduled for ten am today that hasn’t even been posted yet for people to allow to submit witness slips or anything like that. It’s just a process I think that people really shake their head at that wonder why this is how we do it, and I think people rightly know that we can do better.”
Judge Dow also rejected Democratic attempts to throw out the case entirely saying that the lawsuit is slated to be heard before a 3-judge panel on September 1st. Dow warned Democrats that they should address concerns about undercounted minority populations when they convene today to update their map with census figures.
Butler says across the board and especially downstate, Republican-held districts get carved up while Democratic-held districts remain largely intact.
“In the Jacksonville area, Representative Davidsmeyer got drawn into a district with Representative Randy Frese from Adams County. And my district, in what was unveiled yesterday, contains much of the City of Springfield, Rochester, Chatham, goes southeast into Christian County and then east a little bit into Macon County. It completely flips around from the current district that I represent, the 87th District that goes north out of Springfield and includes all of Logan, all of Menard, and a large chunk of Tazewell County as well. That’s the other thing that I think people are really frustrated with.”
The General Assembly is meeting today, and according to a report by Capitol Fax later this morning, a new version of the district map with more tweaks has already been released.