Another group challenges Illinois’ legislative maps

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Another group is protesting the Democratic-drawn legislative maps in Illinois.

The Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting (IAAFER) has filed a complaint with the Department of Justice to ensure that the maps optimize opportunities for minority voters to elect candidates of their choice. IAAFER also shared concerns regarding prison gerrymandering and how the practice will divert over $800 million from Black communities to prison towns between now and the next Census.

Spokesman Norman Montgomery calls the latest version of the maps the most retrogressive redistricting plan in state history, with the lowest number of majority Black districts in 40 years. The number of majority Black representative districts has been cut from 16 in 2011, to 8 in 2021. The number of Black senate districts has been cut from 8 to 4.

“We are back to where we were in 1990,” Montgomery said. “How do you make progress if you lose what you’ve gained over the last 20 years in 20-year increments. You can’t do that.”

IAAFER notes that Black people comprised 14% of Illinois’ population in 2011, and still comprise 14% of the state’s population. However, the number of majority Black districts has been cut by 50%. White people comprised 60% of Illinois’ population in 2011, and 58% in 2021. Yet, 69% of the districts drawn in the Democrat’s redistricting plan are majority white.

Republican leaders, as well as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, have filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the maps were unconstitutional because they were based on population estimates from survey data rather than official Census numbers.

Republicans argue the maps were passed well after the state constitution’s June 30 deadline and therefore the map drawing task should be handled by a bipartisan commission. There have been efforts in the past in Illinois to establish a commission to redraw maps every ten years, an idea that Gov. J.B. Pritzker said while campaigning for governor that he supported.

“The governor now joins a multitude of Democratic legislators who lied to voters by campaigning for and promising fair maps,” state Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said in a statement.

Both lawsuits are tentatively slated for trial before a three-judge panel in late November or early December.

Montgomery said the data behind the maps don’t seem to tell the same story that the boundaries show, but realizes not everyone will be pleased.

“As long as we embrace that particular philosophy of robbing Peter to pay Paul, there is always going to be someone who will complain,” Montgomery said. “The problem is it is the Illinois way, but I still hold out hope for this place.”

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