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Illinois House Republicans Chastise Democrats Over 'Unfair' Redistricting Map Proposals

Republican leaders in the Illinois House say the new district maps released by Democrats on Friday disenfranchise voters as the end of the legislative session draws closer.

Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, is calling for Gov. JB Pritzker to veto the new maps. Republicans have previously said Pritzker broke a campaign promise he made in 2018 to veto legislative maps that come from lawmakers and party leaders. He advocated at the time for an independent commission to draw legislative maps.

"These maps are the perfect example of why the independent commission is the only answer to the crisis," said Durkin.

Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville, said Pritzker has a role to play in the process.

"If he allows this process to go forward and signs a map that was made in such a flawed way and in such a partisan way, then he's contributing to this downfall of people's faith in the way that our process works," said Bourne.

Durkin said the new maps are drawn mainly so Democrats can keep their political power in the state.

"It is a new day, and that new day is worse than what we witnessed under Madigan," said Durkin, referring to a pledge from House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch just after he entered the position in January.

Durkin said the entire process has been unfair, though Republicans are currently in a superminority in both chambers of the Statehouse.

"Let's be perfectly clear: The Democrats use an Etch A Sketch to be able to draw these lines. These things don't make sense," said Durkin. "This is gerrymandering 101."

Durkin said the process disenfranchises the whole population of Illinois, but he would not name any particular districts he considered unfair, instead saying "every one of these districts is unfair."

Illinois is not the only state to face a potentially gerrymandered map. David Daley, the author of the book "Unrigged," told NPR in April 2020 he expected "a real festival of partisan gerrymandering in 2021" across the country.

Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said parties across the country have paid the price for taking part in gerrymandering.

"Elections have consequences, and ... political games and gerrymandering also have consequences," said Spain. "There will be political ramifications for the Democrats continuing to go down this path."

Spain said Democrats are using the same strategies they used during the tenure of former House Speaker Mike Madigan to pass the new maps.

"(It's) a carefully orchestrated campaign to make sure that all voters in the state of Illinois are denied the opportunity to be involved in building a better government and solving problems," said Spain.

Spain said despite new leadership in the House, voters are still being left without a say in the redistricting process.

"This is the same playbook being executed again and again, to make sure that voters do not have the opportunity to be involved with how their government is designed and how it should work," said Spain.

Spain and other Republican leaders are continuing to call for an independent map commission. He said it didn't matter to Democrats that "real data" was used to draw the maps.

"The only thing that seems to matter are the home addresses of incumbent politicians, so the Democrats can be protected and Republicans can be punished," said Spain.

Democrats, in a press release Friday, said the proposed maps took into account "robust public input" and population data from the American Community Survey.

Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said the ACS data was inadequate to draw new maps.

"We need the decennial census data that won't be out until August to be able to draw these maps," said Butler. The process will go to a bipartisan commission if it continues beyond June 30.

Spain also said Democrats "did not make this easy for the public to participate" in the committee hearings held throughout the state in recent months.

"They were in odd places and odd hours," said Spain. "I truly appreciate the people who did participate, that they actually came out and talked."

It's expected Democrats will pass the new maps before the end of the current legislative session. Public hearings on the map proposals are set to take place Tuesday and Wednesday in the afternoon and early evening.

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Christine recently completed an internship in the WNIJ newsroom for the summer of 2019. Christine attends Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. As a Des Plaines native, Christine has filed stories for Indiana Public Radio on Ball State's campus. In her spare time, Christine enjoys board gaming, video gaming and listening to 80s music.