By Jamey Dunn
Senate Democrats sent a proposed map of congressional districts to Gov. Pat Quinn, while Republicans decried the process as partisan and unfair to the state’s Latino community.
Democrats lost five congressional seats in the last general election, and Republicans accused them of drawing the new map with an eye for targeting Republicans' electoral victories. “The people at the ballot box said they were immensely unhappy with what was going on in Washington, [D.C.,]” said Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican. He said Democrats are trying to nullify “ballot box decisions” made by “real people.”
Dillard complained that only one Latino congressional district was drawn, saying he thought Democrats could have created two if they had not “substantially [diluted] Latino representation” in some areas. Chicago Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul, sponsor of the map, said, “We’ve listened to advocacy groups from various Latino communities.” He said no group called for two Latino congressional districts. “We have followed traditional redistricting principals in coming up with this map.”
Republicans characterized the process of drawing of the map as partisan and lacking transparency. However, Senate President John Cullerton said the creation of a congressional map was much more transparent than it was 10 years ago, when state lawmakers let congressional incumbents draw their own districts. “The problem was that it was the incumbents getting together doing their own deal,” he said. Cullerton pointed to the current 17th District as the “most amazing, snakelike gerrymander that has nothing to do with the Voting Rights Act.” Cullerton also noted that for the first time, voters had a chance to look at the proposed state and congressional maps online.
He said the current map splits 31 counties and “looks all crazy,” while the proposed map splits 18. “If there’s any odd shaped districts, it’s because of the Voting Rights Act,” Cullerton said. “It’s politically fair, and you’ll see that bear out in the next 10 years.”