Republicans propose plan they say will put the ‘people’ in driver’s seat for new legislative maps

The measure would allow members of the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint 16 “independent citizen commissioners” to an independent redistricting commission, state Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie said.

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The Illinois House meets in Springfield in 2015.

The Illinois House meets in Springfield in 2015.

Seth Perlman/AP file

Drawing new legislative districts every ten years has been called the most political activity in the nation, but Illinois Republicans want to create a panel they say will take the power away from the politicians.

GOP leaders in the General Assembly proposed their plan for an independent redistricting commission Tuesday, calling it the “best way for people to have their voices heard.”

State Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods was joined by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Tim Butler of Springfield and Republican Caucus Chair Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington to introduce the “People’s Independent Maps Act,” during a Tuesday news conference.

The measure would allow members of the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint 16 “independent citizen commissioners” to an independent redistricting commission within 30 days of the bill’s passage, McConchie said.

“The act is about ensuring that those who are in charge of the state government keep their promise to the people of Illinois, when it comes to supporting an independent map,” McConchie said. “Every Illinoisan deserves to be represented in our democracy, an independent map drawn by the people, for the people, and not by politicians for politicians, is really the best way for people to have their voices heard.”

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods participates in a virtual news conference last year.

State Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods participates in a news conference about redistricting on Tuesday.

Blue Room Stream

Under the Illinois state constitution, state lawmakers must pass a new legislative map by June 30 of the year following the U.S. Census. If they fail to do so, an eight-person bipartisan panel is created. To break the expected tie when that group eventually deadlocks, a ninth member is randomly chosen by the Illinois secretary of state.

Under the Republicans’ proposal, the independent commission will draw the map, which will then be presented to that eight-person commission mandated by the state constitution. The new map will ultimately be submitted to the Secretary of State for approval, assuming the bipartisan panel doesn’t deadlock in its decision. The legislation would only apply to the 2021 redistricting cycle.

The commission would be able to use actual Census data, which is expected to be released in August, instead of “incomplete” data from the American Community Survey, the Republicans said Tuesday.

The bill would put the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court — and the most senior member of the state’s high court who is “not elected from the same political party” — in charge of selecting 16 commissioners for the proposed Independent Redistricting Commission a month after the bill passes.

Those commissioners shall “reflect the ethnic, gender, and racial demographics of Illinois” with 14 of them representing, “in equal number, the two political parties whose gubernatorial candidates received the greatest number of votes in the last gubernatorial election and two of the commissioners shall represent neither of those parties,” under the proposed legislation.

The justices in charge of appointing members to the commission would consider party identification and all campaign contributions in determining a potential commissioner’s eligibility. There shall be at least two commissioners from each judicial district, the legislation dictates.

The commission would be required to have at least 10 public hearings throughout the state, with at least four of those hearings being held after a map is proposed.

The bill copies language from a proposed constitutional amendment introduced in 2019 that garnered bipartisan support in the Senate. A similar measure passed the House in 2016 and was initially co-sponsored by current Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, though records from the General Assembly show he was later removed as a co-sponsor.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left; House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, right.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left; House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, right.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

McConchie said the Republican leaders have started discussions Democrats. Barickman said some have told him they plan to review the measure, leaving him “hopeful” the Republicans can generate bipartisan support” for the bill.

Durkin said it’s now “game time” for redistricting in Illinois.

“If there ever was a time for us to do something which is bold, which is correct, which will give people of Illinois confidence that we are about changing Illinois in a dramatic fashion, this is the place to do it,” Durkin said. “This is the ultimate ethics reform measure.”

A Welch spokesman referred a Chicago Sun-Times reporter to state Rep. Lisa Hernandez, who chairs the House’s redistricting committee, for comment. Hernandez did not immediately respond.

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