Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Residents outline flaws with current district borders, urge Senate redistricting committee to make draft maps public

More than 30 individuals and community group representatives addressed the Senate’s Redistricting Committee in Chicago Monday at the first public meeting about the state’s upcoming remap since Census data was made public.

Many of the speakers sought to define their communities – geographically and in shared attributes – and urge the lawmakers to keep those areas united within the new state House and Senate districts which must be created this year.

Often, speakers’ testimony focused on how the fracturing of their communities by the existing borders have hindered their ability to find advocates for their interests in Springfield and made it difficult for residents to learn who represents them. (ICPR covered the hearing on Twitter; follow us at @ILCampaign.)

The Senate committee’s 4-hour hearing in Chicago was the first public meeting since the detailed headcount data about Illinois residents was released by the Census bureau in February. The chamber has announced four additional hearings – April 6 in Springfield, April 16 in Kankakee and Peoria, and April 19 in Cicero – although committee chairman Sen. Kwame Raoul has said he anticipates additional hearings will be scheduled.

The House and the Senate are required to each hold four public hearings on the current district borders as mandated by a new law that Gov. Pat Quinn signed in March. The Illinois House has yet to establish a committee and announce public hearings; House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie told ICPR on March 25 that she does not know when the chamber will do so.

However, there’s no mandate that lawmakers reveal the map to the public in advance of voting on it. Multiple speakers at Monday’s committee hearing urged Senators to make a draft map public several days in advance of any vote, so that residents have time to analyze it and propose changes. (ICPR urged the same thing when the law mandating some public hearings was debated at the Capitol.)

Because Democrats control the governor’s office and hold majority in both the House and the Senate, it’s expected that the party will pass a map without significant Republican input. If anything, the opportunity for one party to control the remap process only increases the need for draft maps to be shared with the public and adjusted based on residents’ feedback.

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