Henry County Board researches maps for downsized Board

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic
Henry County courthouse clock

The Henry County Board ad-hoc reapportionment committee met May 27 to discuss the options available for drawing new districts and whether the County Board should take action of downsizing itself from 20 members. 

The Committee comprised of voting members Kippy Breeden (R-Geneseo), County Board Chairman, Shawn Kendall (R-Galva), Vice-Chairman, Marshall Jones (R-Kewanee) and Jan May (D-Kewanee) are considering a collection of options, including maps dividing the County's voting population into anywhere from two to five districts. 

The proposed maps must be passed by the County Board before the June 30 deadline to keep the decision at the local level.  If a map is not agreed on, the State Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) , Henry County State's Attorney Cathy Runty (R-Geneseo), County Clerk Barb Link (D-Orion) and leaders  of both major political parties will be charged with the decision as to where boundaries will be drawn. The Republican Chairman is Jan Weber of rural Geneseo. The Democrat Chairman is currently vacant, due to the recent death of Henry Murphy of rural Orion.

State's Attorney Runty, advised the Committee to use the most recent Census data available, which is the 2010 Census, as opposed to the American Community Survey, which, while more current, is based on statistical sampling and projections, rather than hard counts. She also advised to not go forward with mapping until 2020 Census data was available, to avoid potential litigation.

The Committee agreed unanimously to keep the decision with the County Board and go forward with completing the process before the deadline comes to take it to the committee that includes the Attorney General, or his designee.  

Former County Board member Joanne Hillman (D-Colona) advocated for a five district map that would likely change the balance of representation on the Board from the current 19-1 Republican advantage to a different calculation. This map would include a district dominated by Kewanee, and another with majority population in Colona. Those two areas include concentrations of Democrat voters.

Former County Board member Jon Zahm (R-Geneseo) spoke in favor of keeping the current two district map that he co-authored and advocated for as Chairman of the 2010 Re-apportionment committee. “It is fair, easy to understand, basically draws a line across the center of the county, and keeps communities of interest together,” Zahm said. 

 The Re-apportionment committee meets at 3 PM Thursday, June 3 to make final recommendations to the county board on number of members and which map to use.