SPRINGFIELD — Just three days after saying he had still not had a chance to review the newly recrafted maps for legislative and other governmental districts, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed them into law on Friday, locking in the Democratic drawn boundaries and stoking Republican outrage.
As late as Thursday, the Democratic governor told the Chicago Sun-Times he was still looking to make sure the proposed maps aligned with the Voting Rights Act of Illinois, the Voting Rights Act of the United States, Supreme Court decisions and population trends to reflect diversity and fairness.
Apparently finished with all that on Friday, Pritzker signed the three maps outlining new boundaries for districts for the General Assembly, the Illinois Supreme Court and the Cook County Board of Review.
The hotly contested political maps will chart the next decade of elections in Illinois.
“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. “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.”
But Republicans accused Pritzker of lying, breaking a 2018 campaign pledge to veto any map drawn by politicians, rather than an independent commission, a position the GOP has also argued for.
“Governor Pritzker lied to the people of Illinois when he pledged to veto a politician-drawn map,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy. “[Pritzker] let politicians pick their own voters, split up numerous communities of interest, and use faulty data all in an effort to rig the system for those already in power. Pritzker didn’t keep his word and cannot be trusted.”
But in his statement announcing that he was signing the maps, Pritzker said he was satisfied they adhered to the federal and state voting laws and accounted for shifts in population spotlighted in the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.
Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch called Pritzker’s decision a “win for the people of this great state.” The Hillside Democrat characterized the maps as “reflective of the diversity” of the state and said the House map-making process let “citizens [come] to tell us what their communities look like to them.”
After days of Republican news conferences and statements urging a veto of the maps, Pritzker’s signature unleashed yet another round of GOP vitriol.
State Senate Republican leader Dan McConchie called the maps a “blatant effort to kill democracy in Illinois.”
“We will use every tool at our disposal to return power to the people once again and make sure that the governor pays a political price for lying to the people of Illinois,” the Hawthorne Heights Republican said.
The GOP leader wouldn’t say whether that toolbox included a legal challenge, saying the GOP will “examine all options” and “look at that this weekend.”
His counterpart in the other chamber, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, called Pritzker a “sell-out” to the “corrupt Democrat machine.”
In a campaign video released on Facebook, GOP gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, labeled Pritzker “a liar and a coward” for signing “this terrible map in a private office so he wouldn’t have to answer questions about his flip flop.”
Over GOP objections, the Democrats pushed the maps through the state House and Senate last Friday after a series of hearings. They were scrambling to beat a June 30 deadline.
Had they failed to pass maps by then, the state constitution mandates the creation of an eight-person bipartisan panel to take over the task.
When that evenly split panel inevitably deadlocked, a ninth member would be randomly chosen by the Illinois secretary of state — giving the Republicans a 50-50 chance of taking over the map-drawing tools.
Democrats argued that was the minority party’s strategy all along, waiting for their own chance at power, not favoring an independent panel.
Last week, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said Republicans were “trying to run [out] the clock and gamble on a random drawing.”
Pritzker’s signature is the culmination of a months-long process in which Illinois Democrats took testimony from community groups over the course of nearly 50 hearings. The vast majority of these groups asked Democrats to wait for delayed U.S. Census data instead of using the American Community Survey data, which the groups and Republicans contend is less reliable.
One of those groups, Change Illinois, said in a statement Friday that Pritzker’s “actions speak louder than his broken promises.”
“After ... reneging on his pledges to veto partisan maps, Pritzker wasted no time signing into law partisan maps that erase nearly 42,000 Illinoisans. The American Community Survey data used to create Illinois House and Senate maps undercount Illinoisans and do not give them representation,” Change Illinois President Madeleine Doubek wrote.
“Pritzker can continue to hope that voters have widespread amnesia, but we know Illinoisans deserve more credit than that.”