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‘We are transparent’: Illinois Democrats defend congressional redistricting process

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Will you have the same person representing you in Congress after Illinois lawmakers redraw the congressional districts?

All eyes are on the redistricting process as Democrats plan to draw out one of the Republican districts and further secure their majority.

The Senate Redistricting Committee met Friday to discuss proposed changes to the Cook County Subcircuit districts. Although, that is minor compared to the next congressional map.

Members heard from four different groups who testified virtually while some lawmakers appeared in Des Plaines. Democrats say they will continue to use virtual options to keep people safe instead of testifying in person.

Republicans still call the process a “dog and pony show” if Democrats block people from participating. They also stressed the online mapmaking portal is “pointless” if people can’t log in to use it.

Yet, Committee Chair Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) stressed this is a transparent process.

“I do believe that in practice it has worked. Doors have been open, zooms have been open,” Aquino said. “Our ears have been open. We’ve had a number of folks that have participated in this process without fail.”

Aquino said his caucus posts all the proposed maps and written testimony from advocates on the Senate Democrat’s redistricting website and the state legislative website.

Will lawmakers listen to community input?

Republican members of the committee want to know who is drawing the congressional map. However, Aquino claims he doesn’t know.

Some lawmakers have heard from several community advocates who decided to boycott the congressional redistricting process. They said Democrats didn’t listen to their input for the legislative maps earlier this year.

Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield) asked each of the witnesses Friday how long they would like to see the map before lawmakers vote on it. While people with more political experience said they would only need one day, CHANGE Illinois stressed the public deserves at least two weeks to give feedback.

“You have to be able to look at the map that they are working with so that you can critique it and present your own ideas instead of blindly having nothing to review. And then they’re gonna drop a map, probably hours before we vote on it or the day before, the night before,” McClure said. “It’s just not a transparent process and it’s bad for state government.”

McClure feels Democratic leaders keep the chairs of both redistricting committees out of the mapmaking process so they won’t have to answer specific questions about the new map.

Many argue Democrats already have a map made. Republicans had suspicions when Nikki Budzinski left the Biden administration and announced plans to run against Rep. Rodney Davis.

The Senate Redistricting Committee is scheduled to meet again Tuesday at 2 p.m. Meanwhile, the House Redistricting Committee plans to meet at noon on Tuesday.

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Mike Miletich

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