SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker backed away Tuesday from a campaign promise to veto any new legislative map that wasn’t drawn through an independent process, now saying that he trusts state lawmakers to be fair.
During his 2018 campaign for governor, Pritzker supported an amendment to Illinois’ constitution that would have taken the redistricting process out of state legislators’ hands and sent it to an independent commission.
Should such an amendment fail to be adopted, Pritzker said in 2018 that he would veto maps “in any way drafted or created by legislators, political party leaders and/or their staffs or allies” and would support an independent commission set up by the state Legislature.
But now that lawmakers are in the midst of using the latest Census numbers to draw new legislative districts that will stand for a decade, Pritzker said at an unrelated bill signing that the state should “look to the Legislature” to draw up a map that is fair.
“So now, as we reach the end of this session, and I look to the Legislature for their proposal for a redistricting map, I’ll be looking to it for its fairness. And that’s something that’s vitally important for our state, as an effect on the next 10 years and representation throughout the state.”
Illinois Republicans derided Pritzker’s remap flip flop.
Republican House leader Jim Durkin said Pritzker “seems to suffer from retrograde amnesia.”
Illinois GOP chairman Don Tracy labeled Pritzker’s 2018 promise a “BIG LIE.”
“[Pritzker’s] response was clear: he has no intention of following through with his specific promise and will instead happily sign the partisan gerrymandered map Democrats in the House and Senate will send him,” Tracy said in a statement.
Pritzker couched his reversal in the context of the failure to pass a fair maps amendment.
“In order for us to have an independent commission, we needed to have a constitutional amendment, something that would actually change the way the process operates today in the Constitution. That did not happen.”
Such an amendment failed to get on Illinois’ ballot in 2016. Similar proposals have been supported by Pritzker and newly instituted House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch but have gone nowhere.
Under the process mandated by the constitution, if the state Legislature is unable to pass new maps by June 30, the process will go to what Republicans have labeled an independent commission, which would include an equal number of members appointed by each party. If that commission cannot agree on new maps, then a name is drawn from a hat, allowing a Democrat or Republican to break the tie.
Such a random draw would give Republicans a 50-50 chance to control the redistricting process even though they hold a super-minority of seats in both chambers of the Legislature.
Pritzker suggested the GOP really is looking for more control, not fairness.
“I hope that Republicans will choose to work with Democrats on the map. Right now, it looks like they’re just saying ‘no,’ they’re not really engaging and all they’re doing is fighting in these redistricting hearings.”
The reversal comes the day after the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed that Illinois would lose a Congressional seat due to national population shifts. While Illinois was only one of three states in the country to lose population since the last census, Pritzker sought to make lemonade out of the news, saying the loss was less than many speculated and that it “exceeding everyone’s expectations.”
“There are many carnival barkers and people who have run down this state for years who have said, talked about ‘we’ve lost hundreds of thousands over the last ten years.’ As it turns out, it’s about 7,500 people.”