Illinois lawmakers plan special session to amend legislative map using census data

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois House and Senate will return to Springfield on August 31 for a special session focused on redistricting. Lawmakers plan to change the legislative map Democrats passed this spring to address data provided by the 2020 Census.

House and Senate Democrats were notified of the one-day special session Friday.

“As we have said since the beginning of this process, we want to make sure every voice is heard and represented,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch. “We invite the public to participate at the open hearings we will be holding prior to the return of the legislature.” 

Both chambers approved the current legislative district map by partisan votes on May 28. Gov. JB Pritzker later signed the map into law on June 4. Republicans hoped Pritzker would veto the proposal and support an independent process. They argue the governor went back on his word to veto any unfair map. Many good government advocacy groups also pleaded with Democrats to wait for the Census data before crafting the maps.

Senate President Don Harmon said Democrats always had the goal to implement a fair map representing the diversity of Illinois.

“With census data now available, we will take any necessary legislative action with that same goal in mind,” Harmon said.

Republicans call for summary judgment on map

Republican leaders quickly used this opportunity to reiterate their claims that the Democratic map is unconstitutional. The GOP previously pointed out several district populations on the map are three times the maximum allowed under law.

Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie stressed redistricting in 2020 was the most secretive and non-transparent process in the history of Springfield politics.

“The proclamation for a special session is admission that the Democrats’ enacted map was unconstitutional,” McConchi said. “Instead of ensuring the protection of Illinoisans’ voting rights, Governor Pritzker and his Democratic insiders drafted an unconstitutional map that sought to ensure their absolute power for another decade.”

Democrats frequently noted they could return to the Capitol to make revisions once the Census data became available. The majority party heavily relied on data from the 2019 American Community Survey. However, Republicans argue that using the ACS data violates federal law. The GOP leaders have a lawsuit pending trial, but they hope the federal court will act quickly against the Democratic map.

McConchie and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin filed a motion for summary judgment in the case. They argue the state no longer needs a trial to settle the redistricting argument.

Durkin: New data is “game-set-match” against Democrats

“The release of the Census data is game-set-match against the Illinois Democrats,” said Durkin. “Now knowing that their original map is unconstitutional, the Democrats are now scrambling to draw a new backroom map on short notice.”

Durkin also said Democrats can’t “put the toothpaste back in the tube.”

If the federal court sides with Republicans, the current map would become void. The redistricting process could also move straight to a bipartisan commission instead of the same process with both chambers of the General Assembly.

Democrats haven’t explained what changes they hope to make to the map on August 31. However, many members will likely try to ensure their new districts match the diversity of their current region. Several advocacy groups raised concerns that the current map lacked the changes they called for during redistricting hearings.

The first redistricting hearing is set for August 26 at 1:00 p.m. You can follow the discussion by clicking here.

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