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Questions linger about new map for Illinois House

May 23, 2011

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD — Some Illinois lawmakers don’t know the specifics of the new political map for the Illinois House. Others aren’t talking, and a few don’t seem too worried.

The proposed map for Illinois’ lower chamber trickled out last Friday. In fact, the House leadership didn’t release the map until late in the day, hours after lawmakers headed home for the weekend. State representatives and senators are expected to agree to one map by the end of the month.

State Rep. Mike Tryon, (R-Crystal Lake), said he won’t have to sell his house, but he is going to have to sell his message to a lot of new voters.

“I’ve seen the south boundary of the district that I’m going to be assigned, but it looks like it’s going to go down in the Kane County quite a way,” Tryon said. “It looks like about 35 percent or 40 percent of the voters will be in the district that I’m in now are in McHenry County. The rest are going to be in the Kane County.”

The political lines in states are redrawn each decade to reflect population changes indicated in the U.S. census. Data from the  2010 Census data is being used in the remapping process in which some lawmakers saw their districts trimmed. State Rep Rich Morthland, (R-Cordova), saw his Quad Cities boundaries change.

“As far as my district goes, I’m very pleased with what it bodes for my political future,” Morthland said.  “At the same time, it’s still a very long, skinny, kind of district, and I don’t want to say it’s gerrymandered, but there are serious questions about the process.”

During the remapping process, Illinois lawmakers have long been accused of gerrymandering, or creating districts that clearly favor certain political parties.

Many Republicans accused the Democrats of putting re-election ahead of representation. Democrats in Illinois control the process, because the party holds majorities in the House and the Senate, and the Democrats hold the governor’s mansion.

“There seems to be a lot of districts that lumped Republican representatives together so again, you kind of wonder, ‘Was this more political or were they really looking at strong rational for creating good geographical districts?’” said freshman State Rep Joe Sosnowski, (R-Rockford).

Lawmakers expect lawsuits from political parties and interest groups because of the proposed redistricting map.

“It’s not always just the party that gets the shaft that does the challenging (in court); it may be various minority groups or others that feel they’ve been unfairly disadvantaged,” University of Illinois at Springfield professor of political studies Chris Mooney said.

Mooney said the U.S. Supreme Court has made it difficult to win any challenge that doesn’t involve a civil rights issue.

State Rep. Toni Berrios (D-Chicago) heads the Hispanic caucus in the Illinois House. Hispanics saw a 15 percent population jump in the 2010 census.

“There are groups that have come together that are pushing Latino maps and minority maps, but we don’t know what the final map will be,” said Berrios.

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