(The Center Square) – The first of more than a dozen hearings about redrawing Illinois’ maps is underway, but questions remain about what data will be used to draw the maps.
The Illinois Senate Redistricting Committee held its first of a series of hearings Wednesday in Springfield. The House has yet to announce its Redistricting Committee hearings.
Senate hearings are scheduled Thursday to focus on DuPage County with a virtual hearing, Northern Illinois on Saturday, Peoria on March 22, Chicago-South on March 25 and Northwest Cook County on March 26.
State Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, said the hearings are important to get input from the public.
“This committee is dedicated to meeting the June 30 deadline that is set forth by the Illinois Constitution,” Sims said. “The outcomes are far too important to be decided by a handful of political insiders. Citizens must have their voices heard. Under this process, stakeholders from all 102 and all 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly will get a say which presents more opportunities to reflect the diversity of our state.”
Despite the deadline for the legislature to draft a map, full data from the Census isn’t expected by then. That’s been delayed because of the pandemic.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, said the only dispute he believes exists at the moment “is what date is used.”
“The questions of the accuracy and the reliability of that data and also the process,” Barickman said. “Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans have asked for this General Assembly to provide for an independent commission for drawing maps. They want, and millions of Illinoisans want, a redistricting process that results from citizens drawing maps, not politicians picking voters.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who would decide on a map he’s presented at the end of the legislative process, said Wednesday “equity is a very important component of a fair map.”
“You move from there and try to create districts that are more competitive,” Pritzker said. “But as you know, there are areas of the state that are overwhelmingly one party, let's say, and another area that might be overwhelmingly another party. It’s hard to draw a competitive district in those areas.”
Nearly half of all Illinois statehouse seats in the November 2020 election were uncontested.
“It’s hard to draw lines in certain areas that don’t get you a more Republican or more Democratic district,” Pritzker said. “To try to go out of the way to grab a community, talk about gerrymandering, right, just to see if you could get some parity in some area I think is not what’s intended by the concept of fair maps.”
More legislative hearings are expected from both the House and Senate in the days and weeks ahead, including virtual hearings to take public comments from around the state.