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Latino advocacy group calls on Pritzker to veto new legislative maps because they are ‘hindering’ Hispanic voting rights

The Latino Policy Forum argues that not only did Democratic mapmakers fail to increase the number of Latino-majority legislative districts in line with population growth, they actually decreased Hispanic voting power in some districts. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker walks away from the podium after a news conference at the Thompson Center Thursday morning.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker walks away from the podium after a news conference at the Thompson Center Thursday morning.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A leading Latino advocacy group on Thursday called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto new legislative boundaries just passed by the General Assembly, saying the latest maps “do not equitably reflect the state’s Latino community.”

The Latino Policy Forum argues that not only did Democratic mapmakers fail to increase the number of Latino-majority legislative districts in line with population growth, but they also diminished Hispanic voting power in some districts.

In a statement released Thursday, the group went on to say the General Assembly “did not provide advocates with a reasonable timeline that would enable community input.”

After pushing the maps based on population estimates through the General Assembly in May, legislators had to return to the drawing board this week to revise those maps with actual figures from the Census that were released in August.

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, center, gets a standing ovation after passage of the Illinois legislative maps proposal on the House floor Tuesday night.
State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, center, gets a standing ovation after passage of the Illinois legislative maps proposal on the House floor Tuesday night.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

Those figures show that while the state’s overall population fell, the Hispanic/ Latino population grew by 309,832 — from 2,027,578 in the 2010 Census to 2,337,410 in the 2020 count, a 15.3% increase.

Noting that even though the growth in the Latino community was “the largest population increase among racial/ethnic groups statewide,” the Latino Policy forum said, “no Latino-majority districts were added in the maps passed by the general assembly.

“In fact, preliminary analysis and reports show that some Latino-majority districts are diluted even more, further hindering the community’s ability to elect the representatives of their choice.”

Before they met in Springfield on Tuesday, lawmakers hosted hearings last week and through the weekend — similar to those convened during the spring session — to allow the public to weigh in on the updates.

But, just like during the spring process, the Latino Policy Forum and other organizations called for legislators to slow down to allow community groups and the public to analyze the census data and the proposed boundaries.

Despite those pleas, Democrats again pushed their revised maps through the General Assembly Tuesday during a one-day special session.

That’s drawn the ire of other groups as well, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. That group, along with Republican leaders in the General Assembly, say the maps are unconstitutional in the suit they filed against the Legislature’s top Democrats and the Illinois State Board of Elections after the first maps were signed into law in June.

During a hearing of that case Wednesday, Ernest Herrera, the defense and educational fund’s attorney, said despite population gains, Latinos were “not rewarded or given their fair share of districts after that population growth.

“Latinos were in fact penalized, and in the last decade there were three Senate districts that had majority Latino citizen voting age population — now there are two if these maps are signed by Governor Pritzker,” Herrera said.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“In the last decade, under the old maps, Latinos in the House had five districts in which they were the majority of citizen voting age population. Now there are only four such districts in the House.”

Herrera said that suggests “serious” violations of the U.S. Constitution or the Federal Voting Rights Act.

The next hearing in that suit is set for Sept. 27.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin also called on Pritzker to veto the maps in a Thursday statement. Durkin called the new legislative boundaries “another attempt by the legislative Democrats to silence communities across Illinois.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, speaks on the House floor in May.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, speaks on the House floor in May.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

“The Governor does not just work for the Democratic insiders who got him elected,” the Western Springs Republican said. “He needs to listen to the voices of groups like Latino Policy Forum and the IL Muslim Civic Coalition so that all Illinoisans feel that equity and inclusion are part of the mapmaking process.”

At an unrelated news conference on Thursday, Pritzker said he hasn’t yet reviewed the details of the maps, and they haven’t yet been sent to him.

Pritzker said his principles around maps are focused on “diversity of representation for the diverse state we have.”

In June, the governor signed the initial maps into law three days after saying he still had not had a chance to review them.