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Jim Dey | Critics suggest alternatives to Pritzker’s redistribution card | columns

A state judicial panel hit the headlines last month when it announced it would be making “careful considerations” of alternative state legislative redistribution cards proposed by a strange coalition of opponents of the ruling Democrats’ card.

Readers won’t be surprised to learn that Republicans have challenged a rigged card aimed at further reducing their super minority status. But Republicans have joined the litigation of two prominent groups – blacks and Hispanics – who traditionally vote Democrats.

Last week the groups put forward alternatives that create more minority majority districts than those signed by Governor JB Pritzker.

The coalition argues that the super majority Democrats have chosen to protect the white incumbent Democrats at the expense of the minority Democrats by relocating large numbers of them to districts held by predominantly white Democratic incumbents.

“Democrats, led by Governor Pritzker, had only one thing in mind when drawing their map – protecting politicians at the expense of the people of Illinois,” said State Senator Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington.

The three-person federal committee has set the week of December 6th to hear the case. The GOP, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the NAACP each filed separate lawsuits, but the court merged the three cases into one.

The Democrats with a large majority have chosen to stand by the House and Senate districts that were passed in September. An earlier version of their map was ruled unconstitutional by the judiciary because it contained districts that were completely unequal for the same population.

As is so often the case in racially motivated legal disputes, critics accused the map makers of willful discrimination.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson said, “It is unacceptable that underhand tactics be used to undermine and disenfranchise black voters in 2021.”

He is specifically referring to the redrawing of the boundary lines for Illinois House District 114, currently represented by LaToya Greenwood, the Democrat of East St. Louis. About 20 percent of voters in their district have been relocated to neighboring districts, particularly one represented by incumbent White Democrat Rep. Jay Hoffman.

Hispanics similarly argue that their voters are also being inappropriately distributed to the benefit of white Democrats.

The Mexican-American group claims that Hispanics make up 11.2 percent of the state’s voting population, but Hispanic districts make up “3.3 percent of the House of Representatives, 3.3 percent of the Senate, and 3.3 percent of the entire Congregation.”

The map was apparently drawn by the Democrats to help the Democrats at the Republicans’ expense. This is, after all, the point at which the majority party redraws the boundaries every 10 years after the ten-year US census.

Partisan maps are legal; drawing maps to circumvent protected minorities is not.

Perhaps this is why Republicans have boasted that their proposed map, drawn by their legal staff, will increase the number of majority minority districts.

Barickman noted that the GOP alternative makes 11 wards of Hispanic House, compared to five on the map that the Democrats passed. He said it will also create five Hispanic Senate districts, compared to two on the Democrats’ map.

The GOP map also creates an additional black district in East St. Louis. The Mexican-American group’s map would create 10 Hispanic majority districts in the House of Representatives and four in the Senate.

The NAACP proposal aims to restore the Greenwood district.

GOP card skeptics say it wants to create more majority minority districts to make others held by white Democrats more vulnerable to GOP challengers.

The independent map analyst Frank Calabrese rejected this proposal because the GOP and Mexican-American group maps “focus on Latino counties in Cook County”.

“It’s like an internal struggle (of the Democratic Party). It doesn’t really affect the numbers of Democrats and Republicans, ”he said.

Calabrese speculated that the current “legislative map of the state was in trouble” but claimed that democratic control of the legislature “is not at stake”.

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