(The Center Square) – Illinois statehouse Democrats and Republicans continue to go back-and-forth over how to best draw political boundaries.

House and Senate committees for weeks have held hearings around the state about how to draw political boundaries following the ten-year Census. One was held both in-person and virtually in Springfield.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said he’s taken part in almost all of the House hearings.

“The overwhelming message that we’ve heard from these hearings is that the people want an open, transparent and citizen-led process to draw the maps for the next ten years,” Butler said.

He and other minority Republicans are calling for lawmakers to pass a measure having the Illinois Supreme Court pick a commission to draw the maps instead of lawmakers.

“It’s the way the people want to have their maps drawn and I’m fearful that the majority is not going down that path this spring and we’ll once again have partisan drawn maps in Illinois,” Butler said.

During a House hearing Monday, state Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Chicago, said they are committed to an open process.

“While state law requires a minimum of four public hearings throughout the state, our committee intends to hold far more and provide additional avenues for public participation,” Hernandez said.

During Monday’s hearing, NAACP Illinois President Teresa Haley highlighted how Illinois is set to lose a congressional seat because of continued population decline. She said that’s something the state can’t afford, especially in downstate and central Illinois and urged against gerrymandering minority populations.

“The NAACP is opposed to so many things such as packing and stacking and cracking,” Haley said, referring to terms used to describe ways to dilute minority populations. “We’ve seen it happen over and over again,” Haley said.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, visited the statehouse Monday. Before the hearing, he urged for an independent commission to draw the maps.

“We don’t want the politicians, Republican politicians either, picking districts,” Davis said. “We want the voters picking who they elect, but we do believe that there is a much fairer process.”

Democrats put out a statement questioning whether such a measure would be constitutional and said they’re “focused on inclusion, not legally questionable distractions.”

“Republicans are presenting the public with a false choice by promoting legislation that is legally unsound,” state Sens Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, and Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, said in a joint statement. “They know a bill cannot supersede the Illinois Constitution, which requires the General Assembly to undertake the redistricting process every ten years. Democrats are focused on inclusion, not legally questionable distractions.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, pushed for ending partisan gerrymandering.

“Ending partisan gerrymandering is one of the biggest reasons Rep. Foster co-sponsored and voted for, H.R. 1.,” said Foster spokesman Greg Cybulski, “and his focus is on keeping pressure on the Senate to bring the legislation up for a vote.”

While Davis said he supports the independent mapping commission element of House Resolution 1 in Washington D.C., he joined other congressional Republicans who are critical of the federal bill they say would federalize elections that are supposed to be under the control of state and local jurisdictions.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.