Who Draws The Line? - Northern Illinois Residents Discuss Redistricting During Recent Hearing

Apr 12, 2021

More than a dozen northern Illinois residents voiced their concerns at a redistricting public hearing Friday  in Aurora.

Redistricting hearings are taking place across the state. State representatives Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, and Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, hosted the meeting.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin speaking with Rep. Barbara Hernandez D-Aurora, right before the hearing.
Credit Yvonne Boose

Hernandez said this was an opportunity for residents to learn more about the process for remapping, and for the representatives to hear from the people.

“It's great to listen to the organizations, [and] to the people and what they're asking for," Hernandez said. "And they're asking for representation for the minority community," she said.

Redistricting is a remapping that takes place every 10 years after the U.S. Census. A proposal was made to take the planning out of the hands of the politicians and placed with a special commission. This is known as the People’s Independent Maps Act

Republican State Representative Jim Durkin said this is the most important decision that the legislation will make in the next 10 years. He said he wants the leaders who champion fair and independent maps to speak up and put their money where their mouth is so that this change takes place.  

“They can say that I'm a Republican--that I'm in the minority. And it's just sour grapes,” he said. “Well, it's not so much about me, it's about the 13 million people in the state of Illinois who want fair representation. We've seen what exactly has happened when so much power has been given to one or two people.”

Community member Jason Hudson said he attended the meeting because he wanted find out if legislators will consider the input.

“And then using that information to go ahead and really draw a map that the public wants," Hudson said. "Keep in mind, these representatives are servants of the people. We elect them, we pay tax dollars to them, we pay their salaries, we pay their pensions."

Some witnesses stressed the importance of making sure all ethnicities are considered when redistricting decisions are made.

Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said his party has that same concern and noted that the American Community Survey data, which is intended for use during the process, will not be sufficient to capture this diversity.

“The best data available is going to come out in August or September. That's the data that we always use to draw our maps. If we draw maps before that,” Butler explained, “it is going to underrepresented minority populations [and] is going to underrepresented rural populations.”

Redistricting committee listening to a witness testify.
Credit Yvonne Boose

There is a June 30 deadline for a politically drawn map to get to Governor J.B. Pritzker. If it doesn't come together by then, the Illinois Constitition could ultimately leave the party in control of drawing the maps to chance.  

23 hearings will be held in person and virtually.  

Curtis Tarver is the state representative for the 25th district. He summarized what the committee is looking for during these hearings.

“We want to hear your specific views on any social, political, economic or religious interest commonly held in the community and the specific interest groups that exist, any concerns you have regarding the current boundaries," Tarver said. "Alternatively, what works well about the current boundaries, and suggestions for drawing of new boundaries.”

The discussion is available on Facebook.

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org