Illinois House Republicans on Monday blasted Democrats for the “lowest of lows” in their release of new legislative maps, accusing the majority party of trying to “ramrod” the proposed redrawn boundaries through the General Assembly just a week before it’s scheduled to adjourn.
The Republican legislators called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto the maps if the Legislature passes them.
“[The Democrats] scheduled four public hearings this week, two of which are on the same day, in an attempt to ramrod these maps through the General Assembly before May 31,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.
“What we’ve seen here today is the lowest of lows for the House Democrats, which, quite frankly, I did not think was possible after Mike Madigan disappeared,” the Republican leader said. “But, as Speaker [Emanuel “Chris”] Welch said in January, it is a new day. And that new day is worse than what we witnessed under Madigan.”
Durkin was joined by Republican state Representatives Tim Butler of Springfield, Avery Bourne of Morrisonville, Ryan Spain of Peoria, and Dave Severin of Benton, for the Zoom news conference on the proposed legislative maps, which were released Friday evening.
The House Republican Leader said the initial maps are “nothing less than a kindergartner’s artwork,” and “nearly impossible” to replicate since no data was provided to see how the proposed lines were drawn.
But what did seem clear to many Republicans — and even some Democrats — was that the new maps charted a rocky road ahead for the GOP, forcing some Republican legislators, including one candidate for governor, to compete with one another for the same political turf.
Some Democrats on the redistricting panels and the governor did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for Welch pointed to Republicans issuing a press release shortly after the Friday release of the maps and said “clearly [Republicans] didn’t even bother to look at the proposal.”
“Not only did they immediately criticize that map, but also the congressional and Supreme Court maps, which were not even included,” Jaclyn Driscoll, a Welch spokeswoman said in a statement. “Clearly they didn’t even bother to look at the proposal. We are focusing on and looking forward to good faith discussions in our bipartisan redistricting committees this week.”
The maps released Friday were drawn using data from the American Census Survey, but Democrats have yet to release any of the demographic data used to create the lines.
That lack of actual U.S. Census data raises questions whether the proposed districts were “able to be drawn correctly” with the right population figures, said Butler, the Republican spokesperson of the House Redistricting Committee.
“Frankly, these maps make a joke of the redistricting process, and they’re a slap in the face of the public who have been demanding fairness, and openness, to this process,” Butler said. “These maps which were drawn unfairly, in a manner that we don’t even know what the data is, and it’s obvious that they’re for partisan, political gain.”
Even some Democrats admitted the GOP wasn’t off the mark in its read of the situation.
Frank Calabrese, a Democratic political consultant not involved in the redistricting process, said the map “is designed to cause absolute chaos within the Republican caucus — it’s designed to force retirements and cause primaries.”
Under the proposed maps numerous state House and Senate Republicans were mapped into the same districts or into Democratic-leaning districts, narrowing their chances for retaining their seats in the next election.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey of Xenia was drawn into the same state Senate district as Jason Plummer of Edwardsville, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010.
“Pritzker promised fair and independent maps and all we’ve received is partisan-map drawing behind locked doors,” Bailey said in a written statement. “The data they’re using is bad and they know it, but their locked door process was never about selecting honest legislative districts, it’s about legislative Democrats picking their voters.”
Plummer said in a statement the problem is not “whether sitting senators are mapped into the same districts” but rather about keeping “sitting politicians like myself out of the process all together.
“The map in question was created by and for politicians behind closed doors with inaccurate data,” Plummer’s statement continued. “We don’t even know what data they used to create these maps since the official census data has yet to be released.”
Plummer also called for Pritzker to veto the map if it’s passed.
Bourne was mapped into the same downstate district as Republican state Rep. Mike Murphy of Springfield, while GOP state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst appears to have been thrown into the same district as Elmhurst Democratic state Rep. Deb Conroy.
Asked if the Republican caucus was considering filing suit, Durkin said the group of lawmakers are “keeping our options open.”
The House Republicans weren’t alone in their concerns.
Shortly after the maps were released Friday, community advocates and some good government groups, including Common Cause Illinois, said in a joint statement they “strongly reject the attempt by Illinois lawmakers to introduce and pass maps that are built on an undercount of Illinoisans across the state.”
“The decisions by our current lawmakers will disenfranchise tens of thousands of voices for a decade by creating representative maps that do not include them,” the statement continued in part.
Jay Young, the executive director of Common Cause Illinois, said the state, through its redistricting process and the common practice of incumbents resigning to allow a favored candidate to be appointed to their seat, tends to protect incumbents.
He said the maps released Friday support that idea.
“If somebody is asking me how to understand this process, something that feels very opaque, that feels very complicated ... I’d describe it as this is the time where you see your elected officials making your decisions for you when it comes to the voting booth,” Young said.
Additional hearings for the public to weigh in on the proposed maps before legislators vote on them begin Tuesday at 4 p.m. with a joint meeting of the House and Senate, followed by a 6 p.m. hearing in the House.