By Jim EllisOct. 19, 2021 — It had been speculated that the Illinois Democrats were attempting to draw a new congressional map to reduce the state’s Republican contingent from five members to three. The new plan, featuring 17 new districts that twist, turn, and meander throughout the state, appears to accomplish their goal.
Democratic leaders from the House and Senate Redistricting committees defend their actions, saying the plan is “designed to comply with federal law and ensure the broad diversity of the state is reflected in the elected officials sent to represent Illinois in Washington, D.C.” The map must still clear both houses of the Illinois legislature and obtain Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) signature before becoming law but with Democrats holding big partisan majorities, enactment seems certain.
Republicans and even some analytical observers say the map is a blatant partisan gerrymander designed to net the Democrats three seats nationally. Under this plan, 14 at least “lean Democratic” districts are created opposite three Republicans. The current map stands at 13D-5R, but Illinois loses a congressional seat in reapportionment.
Therefore, if the map performs as designed, the Republicans will be down a net three seats nationally because the Democrats would convert two GOP districts while the latter party absorbs the loss of the 18th seat that went to another state.
A potential legal problem, in addition to a political gerrymandering lawsuit, is the lack of drawing a second Hispanic seat in Chicago, and the Mexican American Legal Defense Foundation (MALDEF) is reportedly poised to file suit. As was the case in the last decade, the demographic numbers appear high enough for Hispanics to have two seats within Chicago. Such a second seat was not drawn in 2011, and it is again not created on this map, but the black majority seats are reinforced.
One of the re-draw’s top targets is Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon). His current 16th District is divided into several parts in an effort to sustain the marginal Democratic district that Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) is relinquishing in western Illinois, and help strengthen Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D-Naperville) district in the Chicago metro area. Under the current map, Underwood won a second term with just a 51-49 percent margin.