Gov. Pritzker signs new legislative, Supreme Court maps

Ben Szalinski
State Journal-Register
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker praises the budget passed by the lawmakers during a press conference in his office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, June 1, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Gov. JB Pritzker signed new legislative and state Supreme Court maps Friday,  celebrating them for reflecting the state's diversity.

“Illinois’ strength is in our diversity, and these maps help to ensure that communities that have been left out and left behind have fair representation in our government,” said Pritzker. “These district boundaries align with both the federal and state Voting Rights Acts, which help to ensure our diverse communities have electoral power and fair representation.”

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The Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011 requires state lawmakers to keep minority groups together when they are large enough to exercise power in elections. The state constitution also requires districts to be compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population. 

Throughout the spring, Democrats and Pritzker said they wanted to produce maps that were representative of Illinois' diversity. After Pritzker signed the maps, Speaker of the House Emanuel 'Chris' Welch, D-Hillside, said in a statement the new maps ensure "Illinois remains a model for the nation for minority representation.

"Today was a win for the people of this great state," Welch said. "With Governor Pritzker's signature, people of Illinois can be confident in a legislative map that is reflective of the diversity that we see in every corner of our state."

By signing new Illinois Supreme Court maps, the state will have new districts for the high court for the first time since 1963. Democrats said redrawing the court was necessary to reflect population shifts throughout the state over the last 50 years and make the districts more equal in population. 

The maps were first released for public input on May 21 after over 40 public hearings in March and April. Some revisions were made early on May 25 after four more public hearings two days before. Lawmakers sent the maps to Pritzker later on May 25.

Also: Democrats introduce, pass legislative maps as Republicans take their plea to Gov. Pritzker

Proposed 2021 Illinois House legislative map (Source: www.ilhousedems.com)
Proposed 2021 Illinois Senate legislative map (Source: www.ilsenateredistricting.com)

Republican lawmakers pushed Pritzker to veto the maps and routinely mentioned a 2018 campaign pledge in which he said he would veto any map drawn by lawmakers or their staff. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said he thought Pritzker would keep his campaign pledge. 

"Today, Gov. Pritzker broke that promise," Durkin said. "Gov. Pritzker, you sold out. And governor, not only did you sell out, but you lied. In Illinois when you're the governor, your words mean something." 

In an interview with The State Journal-Register Thursday, Pritzker said his "goal had been to get the legislature to put in a constitutional amendment. What I was trying to do was push the legislature and push people who don't want fair maps toward a constitutional amendment. I hoped that we could do that, but that didn't happen so now we're in a situation where we have to pass a map and get it in place before June 30."

Republicans also say the maps were drawn to give Democrats an advantage in elections. 

"The very legislation the Democrats put forward in the General Assembly talked about the fact that they drew these maps in a partisan manner," Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, said. "Exactly the same as what the governor said he would veto." 

House Redistricting Committee Chair Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, said in floor debate May 28 partisan advantage was a factor in some decisions made about the maps.

More: How are you counted? Fight over data at center of census redistricting debate

While Pritzker and fellow Democrats say the maps are compliant with federal and state voting rights laws, Republicans say the use of American Community Survey data instead of full U.S. Census data could be the basis for a lawsuit. 

“Using inaccurate, flawed data clearly deviates from one person, one vote," said Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. 

Community organizations that were active in the redistricting hearings such as CHANGE Illinois were not convinced the map represents the state's diversity. 

"As was evident from the final redistricting hearings and statements issued in response to the Illinois General Assembly’s map proposals, diverse communities across the state — representing Black, Latinx, Asian-American, Muslim, Jewish, elderly, young, urban, and rural — rejected these maps," CHANGE Illinois said in a statement. "These maps do not give us equitable representation for the next 10 years."

Former University of Illinois Springfield political science professor Kent Redfield said by signing the maps, Pritzker takes away any chance for Republicans to get a bipartisan commission to draw the map, which would have happened if the governor did not sign the maps by June 30. If the maps were challenged, any changes the court may require could be made without including Republican lawmakers. 

McConchie said Republicans will evaluate their legal options in the coming weeks. 

While Republicans condemn Pritzker for signing the maps and Democrats take a victory lap, Redfield said Pritzker's decision wasn't top of mind for voters and the political consequences were difficult to measure. However, he said Pritzker signing the maps could be a part of larger criticisms against him in reelection. 

“It’s one more thing Pritzker doesn’t need in terms of whatever baggage he carries into the 2022 election,” Redfield said. 

The new map puts several Republicans in to the same district, including Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Spingfield, and Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville. 

Candidates for the 2022 election will be running for positions in new districts created by the new map. They will take effect when the lawmaker is sworn in for their next term in January 2023. If Pritzker signs another bill moving Illinois' 2022 primary date to June, candidates can begin filing to run in March 2022. 

The state's new congressional map will be drawn and released later this year.