Illinois state Senate Democrats advanced new congressional maps on a party line vote Thursday night, with Republicans in the chamber lambasting the revamped districts and the process as “the poster child for why politicians should never be allowed to draw their own maps.”
The state’s upper legislative chamber voted 41 to 18 to send the new map to the House after a contentious day of negotiations, which went down to the wire in the General Assembly on Thursday night. The measure still needs to pass the House before it can head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The vote followed the release of a fourth draft of a congressional map that throws Democrats Reps. Marie Newman and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia into the same district. That proposal came after an intense and successful Springfield lobbying drive by Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill.
Casten was drawn in a district by himself after being tossed in with Newman in an earlier draft.
Republicans needled Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, for jamming through the remap bill shortly after it was filed, bypassing any committee hearing.
Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-West Dundee, said “the real process is taking place out of the public eye,” allowing Democrats to choose “the voters they want to represent for the next decade.”
“This will be the most gerrymandered map in the country,” DeWitte said. “This process will be used as the poster child for why politicians should never be allowed to draw their own maps. Our maps will only cause further polarization in the state of Illinois ...”
Harmon said before the vote, “This is a difficult and, at many points, unpleasant process.
“Inevitably we will disappoint people,” Harmon said, adding that there were 14 maps submitted by members of the public.
Having passed the Senate, the proposed map now moves to the House for a vote — action on the measure is expected Thursday night.
Democratic mapmakers put Newman in the same district — designed to be a Hispanic majority district — with Garcia, potentially pitting the two progressives — both on the Transportation Committee and both leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus —against each other.
If left to stand, this would be one of the first faceoffs in recent times between progressive incumbents anywhere in the country.
Newman, referring to Casten, called the move a “clear attempt to appease one person and a small handful of affluent insiders.” Still, Newman has options and Casten could ultimately face a primary. A congressional candidate in Illinois can live anywhere in the state.
Sources told the Chicago Sun-Times that the initial lack of votes on the third congressional map proposal is partly due to Casten putting pressure on some state legislators in his congressional district to improve the map in his favor — or oppose the third draft map, released Wednesday night, because it heavily favored Newman.
Newman, in a statement, said, ”For the past month, hundreds of diverse community members from Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs have attended and overwhelmingly voiced their opinion at every single public input opportunity held by the Illinois General Assembly on the proposed congressional maps.
“Even after attending every single hearing in large numbers and delivering hundreds of testimonies, letters, calls and witness slips from voices in the district, the most recently proposed map is a clear attempt to appease one person and a small handful of affluent insiders at the expense of workers and working families on Chicago’s Southwest Side and suburbs.”
“Illinois residents deserve fair representation and a fair map that includes public input — not one that turns a blind eye to it. This map undoubtedly does not live up to what Illinois residents deserve.”
The fourth draft map was posted after it became clear that Democratic leaders — House Speaker Chris Welch, D-Hillside, and Harmon — could not muster the majorities needed to pass legislation in a veto session. The hang-ups were over the makeup of a second Hispanic district and decoupling Casten from Newman.
Springfield lawmakers were scheduled to go home Thursday. Welch told his Democratic caucus, meeting virtually Thursday morning, that if they don’t make a deal, the congressional map vote would kick to January, when it takes only a simple majority to pass a bill, sources said.
A January vote would lead to political chaos, with congressional candidates unable to launch campaigns or do fundraising without a map. Candidates can begin circulating petitions for the June 2022 primary in January, with filing between March 7 and 14.
An analysis by David Wasserman, the remap expert at the Cook Political Report with Amy Walker, concluded that under this fourth draft, in a Garcia-Newman matchup, “Garcia would have a big advantage.”
Garcia at present represents the only Hispanic district in Illinois, which connects the North and South Side Chicago Hispanic populations. The fourth draft puts Garcia and Newman in a district with a 63.23% Hispanic voting age population.
Democratic mapmakers, putting a priority on creating a second district likely to elect a Hispanic member of Congress, could not figure out a way to do so without sacrificing a Democratic incumbent. The new Hispanic district — the 3rd — under this fourth draft has only 43.79% Hispanic voting age population. Harmon declined to call the new 3rd a Hispanic district, preferring to call it a “Hispanic opportunity” or “Hispanic influence” district.”
The language, introduced Thursday night by Harmon, was not expected go through the usual committee hearing process — instead, the senate leader introduced the measure on that chamber’s floor.
Democratic mapmakers released the third draft congressional map around 10 p.m. on Wednesday — and scheduled a public hearing to discuss it on 10 a.m. Thursday morning, giving the public little time or notice.
At the hearing, Harmon dodged answers to questions from Republicans about contacts he or his staff had with Democrats in the Illinois delegation. The Sun-Times and other outlets have reported that staffers for Pritzker, Harmon and Welch held one-on-one “listening sessions” with the incumbents.
At present, Illinois sends 13 Democrats and 5 Republicans to Congress. Under reapportionment based on the 2020 census, Illinois will lose a seat. All four drafts were designed to yield the election in 2022 of 14 Democrats and 3 Republicans.