Redistricting Process Comes to Northern Suburbs
Citizens ask Illinois House Redistricting Committee for map preview.
The House Redistricting Committee of the Illinois General Assembly brought a piece of Springfield to the northern suburbs Tuesday with a hearing at Waukegan City Hall.
Every 10 years, the state legislature redraws the boundaries of the state’s Congressional, state legislative and state senate districts to comport with population changes reported in the census. Five representatives met Tuesday to discuss what those new boundaries might look like.
Mapping it out
More than 175 citizens from diverse constituencies gave the representatives a common message during the hearing, asking to see a proposed map before the General Assembly votes on it.
Some legislators didn't sound so sure that would happen.
Committee Chairman Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) was one of them. Lang opened the meeting by inviting citizens to share their input, though he did not promise to give people in the room a preview of the maps before a vote.
“We don’t know if there will be enough time," Lang said.
The representative explained that the state required four meetings for the redistricting process, but 15 would be held. Tuesday’s gathering was the only one scheduled in the north or northwest suburbs.
“We want to hear any characteristics that are unique to your community,” Lang said. “Tell us about any social, political or religious groups in your community.”
Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) took a different view when it was his turn to address the group before testimony.
“Once the map is drawn, how does it impact your community?” Fortner asked. He wants more public hearings after the map is configured.
Reps. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), Sid Mathias (R-Buffalo Grove) and Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) also took part in Tuesday's meeting.
Julie Contreras of the League of Latin American Citizens, Rose Feder of Highland Park's League of Women Voters, Highland Park City Councilman-Elect Paul Frank, Raymond True of the Republican Association of Lake County and many others expressed a desire for more hearings after the legislature set its plan.
“[The meetings] should be at least two weeks before [the maps] are acted on by the General Assembly," Feder said.
Frank, who attended the hearing but did not testify before the committee, hopes the legislature makes the map available before a vote.
“It would be useful to getting districts put in,” Frank said. “It would give people a chance to look at it and see how it’s laid out.”
Nekritz understands Lang’s timing concerns, but hopes there will be a second round of public meetings after the plans are prepared by the state’s cartographers.
“I’m not sure how this will all get done,” Nekritz said after the hearing. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do this as much for the legislature as for the citizens."
A number of people asked the mapmakers to put their entire community in one legislative district. Northbrook is in four districts, for example, while Glenview is in two.
“It’s never going to be perfect," Nekritz added. "We need to have representatives as much in one community as we can."
Nekritz and Reps. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), Karen May (D-Highland Park) and Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) cater to Northbrook residents. Nekritz and Biss share responsibility for Glenview.
Variety of viewpoints
Highland Park was placed in one district 10 years ago after it spent the previous decade represented by a pair of legislators. Frank thinks his city was fortunate in 2001 and wants to see that luck continue.
“Highland Park has benefited from the current map with one representative and one senator," Frank said. "I hope that continues under the new map.”
Little was mentioned about Illinois’ reduction from 19 to 18 Congressional districts, though True suggested that Lake County emerge as its own Congressional district.
“There will be 705,000 to 710,000 people in a Congressional district," True said. "It just so happens Lake County is 705,000. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Lake County had its own Congressional district?”
Ilya Sheyman of Waukegan has a different view. Sheyman, who has formed an exploratory committee to become the Democratic candidate to oppose Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) in 2012, wants to see a district that would start at the Wisconsin border, maintain the current western boundaries of the Tenth Congressional District and continue south until it fills the required population.
“The communities along Lake Michigan share a common interest," Sheyman said. "The same is true for communities along Route 41 and I-94. Highland Park, Lake Forest, Northbrook and Deerfield are in the coastal zone.”
Dold has taken a more pragmatic view. He recognizes the Illinois legislature will draw the map and is awaiting the outcome.
“I’d like to keep as much of the Tenth District intact as possible,” said Dold, who did not attend the meeting but spoke to Patch later in the day. “This is a great district and the race will be competitive as it always has been.”
Dold is off to a fast start to his re-election campaign even if the district’s boundaries are uncertain. One of the top freshman fundraisers, he collected $310,899 before the quarter ended March 31, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The redistricting map must be adopted by a Statehouse majority by May 31 (60 votes in the House, 30 in the Senate). The governor has until June 3 to approve that map. Then, to pass the redistricting map, the Statehouse needs three-fifths of the membership in each chamber.
Editor's note: The original post of this story mistakenly stated that the first due date for the new map is June 30. We apologize for the error.