Illinois Democrats offer legislative map

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

CHICAGO -- Democrats offered a new legislative map Monday that pits fewer Republican incumbents against each other than their original proposal and reduces some downstate districts that had been drawn to stretch more than 100 miles.

The amended map, filed by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Bilandic, was presented as a compromise of sorts from Democrats aware that any proposal they approve will be challenged in court. Bilandic said it addresses some of the concerns voiced by the GOP minority on the Legislative Redistricting Commission during hearings over the first plan.

But Republicans said the map still carves up the state with only one purpose in mind -- to hand Democrats the House and Senate for the next decade.

'No compromise'

"This is definitely not a compromise," said state Sen. Walter Dudycz, R-Chicago, who supports an alternative map his party filed last week. "This is a very, very, very obvious map that does what the Democrats want it to do."

The original Democratic plan would have forced 19 Republican representatives and 13 Republican senators to either run against each other or move if they sought re-election. The new plan doubles up eight Republican House members and six Republican senators.

The amended map also pits 12 Democratic House members against each other. The only Democratic senators paired up are John Cullerton and Lisa Madigan, who has said she wants to run for attorney general.

A Senate district in the original plan that ran more than 120 miles south from the Wisconsin border to Peoria shrinks under the new plan, as does another district that had stretched 142 miles from northern Illinois nearly to Jacksonville. Galesburg and Rock Falls -- about 70 miles apart -- no longer fall in the same House district.

The amended map does not change the number of districts in which blacks or Hispanics make up the majority. Blacks would be favored for 18 House seats and Hispanics for eight House seats.

"I think for the most part this is fair, it is compact, it meets the Voting Rights Act and it will withstand any court test," state Sen. Vince Demuzio, D-Carlinville, said of the Bilandic plan.

Districts must be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes recorded by the census.

Southern Illinois

The map presented Monday shifts more legislative power to fast-growing counties surrounding Chicago, where the population is growing. By contrast, sprawling districts dominate Southern Illinois, which lost population over the last decade.

The Legislature did not approve a map before it adjourned this spring, so the task fell to four Democrats and four Republicans on the redistricting commission. They could not agree, so a ninth member -- Bilandic, a Democrat -- was added after his name was drawn from a hat containing one Democratic name and one Republican name.

Both sides have sued over that lottery process, and Republican Attorney General Jim Ryan has moved to consolidate their cases in federal court in Rockford. Democrats want the Illinois Supreme Court, which has a Democratic majority, to decide the issue.

The constitution sets an Oct. 5 deadline for a map to be drawn.

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