by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times
September 24, 2021
SPRINGFIELD, IL — Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed off on new legislative maps for the next decade on Friday, despite concerns from some Black and Latino voters that they would not be able to weigh in and would be unfairly represented.
Pritzker approved maps drawn up by his fellow Democrats for the second time, despite promising as a candidate in 2018 that he would veto any made by politicians. He also signed an earlier version, which Democrats approved in May but critics said was flawed because it was based on population estimates.
Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have filed lawsuits in federal court in Chicago to prevent the new maps from being used in elections. Lawyers for MALDEF claim the maps violate the federal Voting Rights Act by creating fewer districts with a majority of Latinos of voting age, despite the fact that Latinos make up a larger percentage of the state’s population than they did a decade ago.
The United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, which advocates for the “equitable advancement of marginalized communities,” claimed that the new maps “weaken the voting power of Black and Latino community members and largely ignore Asian American and Arab American communities.”
CHANGE Illinois, which advocates for an independent map-drawing process, noted that Latino groups that have filed lawsuits claim that Latino power has been diluted, Black activists claim that the map does not create enough Black majority voting age districts, and Jewish communities on Chicago’s north side and north suburbs have been divided.
Pritzker’s defense is that as a candidate in 2018, he advocated for the establishment of an independent commission, and when Democrats in complete control of state government failed to do so, lawmakers faced a June 30 deadline to complete the map. However, June 30 was simply the date on which Democrats would have lost control of the process. At that point, it would have been up to a bipartisan commission comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans — the process that critics want a federal judge to initiate. Democrats refer to this as the “real political process,” and they want to avoid it for a variety of reasons, including the fact that a ninth member would be chosen at random to break any tie votes, potentially giving the GOP the final say.
Illinois Democrats have not yet voted on new congressional district boundaries, but with the state losing a House seat due to population loss, it is expected that they will remove a GOP-held district and try to make other districts more Democratic-friendly.
Frank Conklin, Illinois Political Columnist for The Chicago Times. Views and comments expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Chicago Times.