clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Count them out? GOP says census figures prove political maps drawn by Democrats are ‘unusable, unlawful’

Republicans say the legislative boundaries signed into law in June will “be declared void” because of population differences that exceed federal limits. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s spokeswoman said Democrats are still “analyzing the data. We have no further updates.”

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, third from right, joins other Republicans in May urging Gov. JB Pritzker to veto the redrawn maps.
State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, third from right, joins other Republicans in May urging Gov. JB Pritzker to veto the redrawn maps.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

Illinois Republicans said Monday U.S. Census figures released last week prove their claim that political maps drawn by Democrats “in a closed room” this spring using population estimates are “unusable and unlawful.”

“Despite bipartisan pleas to wait for the Census number[s] like 48 other states, Illinois Democratic politicians that were led by Governor Pritzker ignored the voting rights of their own constituents in an attempt to hold absolute power for another decade,” Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said in a statement.

“By breaking his promise and signing this map that has now been proven to be widely inaccurate, Governor Pritzker once again sided with political insiders against the people of Illinois.”

McConchie’s counterpart in the state House, Republican Leader Jim Durkin, said the actual census figures released on Thursday confirm what Republicans “predicted.”

The maps “that were drawn by Illinois Democrats in a closed room and without public input, and signed by Governor Pritzker, have proven to be unusable and unlawful given the release of the U.S. Census data,” the Western Springs Republican said.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, in 2019.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, in 2019.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register file

The state’s constitution mandates that legislative boundaries must be “substantially equal,” but the Republican lawmakers say that under the maps drawn by Democrats, population counts range from 92,390 in the state House’s 83rd District — which includes Aurora and North Aurora — to 124,836 in the Illinois House’s 5th District — which is part of Chicago. That’s a difference of 32,446 people.

Based on a test directed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that difference represents a total population range of 29.88%, which is three times the maximum range allowed by federal law, according to a GOP news release. The Republicans say that ensures that the boundaries “will be declared void.”

Asked to respond to the Republican lawmakers’ claims, a spokeswoman for Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said Democrats are still “analyzing the data. We have no further updates.”

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, gives his closing remarks on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives in June.
Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, gives his closing remarks on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives in June.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register, distributed by the Associated Press

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday his main concern is making sure that “we’re recognizing the diversity of our state” in the mapping process.

“To the extent that there are changes that will need to be made, that’s certainly something the legislature will need to take up and I’ll consider,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference.

State Senators Omar Aquino and Elgie Sims, two Chicago Democrats who oversaw the senate’s redistricting committee, said in a joint statement they continue to analyze the information released by the Census Bureau but “our commitment to the people of Illinois remains the same: we support a fair map that reflects the broad racial and geographic diversity of Illinois.

State Sen. Elgie Sims, left, and state Sen. Omar Aquino, who headed the Democratic efforts to draw the new maps, met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in April over Zoom.
State Sen. Elgie Sims, left, and state Sen. Omar Aquino, who headed the Democratic efforts to draw the new maps, met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in April over Zoom.
Screen image

“As we go through this review process, if it becomes clear that updates need to be made, we will take the appropriate steps to do so,” they said.

“This has been a unique Census, and it’s important we take time to fully understand the data. This includes the impact of ‘differential privacy,’ which is which is used by the Census Bureau to protect identities of respondents but may also result in inaccuracies, especially in more ethnically and racially diverse communities.”

Rather than wait for the actual census figures that were not released until last Thursday, Democrats relied on estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, pushing their proposed maps through the state House and Senate in May.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs legislation into law at a bill signing ceremony in July.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs legislation into law at a bill signing ceremony in July.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Over GOP objections, Gov. J.B. 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 on June 4.

Less than a week later, Durkin and McConchie filed a federal lawsuit against the Democrats and the state Board of Elections, challenging the hotly contested political maps, which will chart the next decade of elections in Illinois.

The Democrats 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. And when that evenly split panel inevitably deadlocks, a ninth member is randomly chosen by the Illinois secretary of state — giving the Republicans a 50-50 chance of taking over the map-drawing tools.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, and Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, right, meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board over Zoom In April.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, and Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board over zoom In April.
Screen image.

When he signed the maps into law, Pritzker said the “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 accuse the Democratic governor of breaking a 2018 campaign pledge to veto any map drawn by politicians, rather than an independent commission.

In their suit, the Republican leaders argue the Democrats robbed “citizens of a fair and transparent legislative map-making process.”

The estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey “are not intended to be, and are not, a proper substitute for the official census counts” and any maps relying on those “estimates cannot create substantially equal legislative districts,” they argue in the suit.

Along with asking the court to rule the maps unconstitutional, the leaders are asking it to take the map-making out of the hands of legislators, either through the creation of a bipartisan commission or for a court-appointed “special master” to draw “valid” maps.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Wednesday.