Democrats, Republicans spar over who’s trying to inject more politics into task of drawing new legislative districts

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State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, left; State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, right.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, left; State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, right. | Facebook; Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, who chairs the House Redistricting Committee, said, “Republicans have already been clear that their only goal is to rig the process to elect more right-wing candidates.” One GOP legislator countered that Hernandez’s comments are “both unnecessary and destructive.”

The head of a state House committee charged with drawing new legislative maps slammed a Republican proposal to create an independent redistricting panel on Wednesday, saying her GOP colleagues only want to “rig the process to elect more right-wing candidates.”

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, who chairs the House Redistricting Committee, rejected Republican legislative leaders’ argument that their proposal was designed to take power from the politicians and give it to the people.

“Republicans have already been clear that their only goal is to rig the process to elect more right-wing candidates,” the Cicero Democrat said in a written statement.

“I think a fair process starts with public input — not crass political calculations — which is why the House Redistricting Committee has scheduled 23 public hearings across our state to hear from people about what their community looks like to them,” she said. “We look forward to a robust and thorough discussion.”

State Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez addresses the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2018.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file
State Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez addresses the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2018.

Hernandez was responding to the “People’s Independent Maps Act” proposed during a Tuesday news conference by state Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, House Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Tim Butler of Springfield and Republican Caucus Chair Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington.

The GOP leaders called their plan for an independent redistricting commission the “best way for people to have their voices heard.”

“The act is about ensuring that those who are in charge of the state government keep their promise to the people of Illinois, when it comes to supporting an independent map,” McConchie said Tuesday. “Every Illinoisan deserves to be represented in our democracy, an independent map drawn by the people, for the people, and not by politicians for politicians, is really the best way for people to have their voices heard.”

On Wednesday, Barickman, the lead sponsor of the GOP legislation in the state’s upper legislative chamber, swung back at Hernandez’s comments.

State Sen. Jason Barickman meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2017.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times file
State Sen. Jason Barickman meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2017.

“This type of partisan rhetoric is both unnecessary and destructive to those of us who stand with the millions of Illinoisans who support an independent mapmaking process,” Barickman said in a statement. “It’s also illogical when you consider the legislation uses identical language from [a proposed constitutional amendment] that was introduced by Sen. Julie Morrison and cosponsored by 18 members of her Democratic caucus last year.”

The Illinois state constitution dictates state lawmakers must pass new legislative maps by June 30 of the year following the U.S. Census. Failure to do so will result in the creation of an eight-person bipartisan panel that will handle the task. A ninth member is randomly chosen by the Illinois secretary of state if, or when, the evenly split group deadlocks.

Under the Republicans’ proposal, an independent commission would draw the maps, which would then be presented to that eight-person commission mandated by the state constitution. The new maps would ultimately be submitted to the secretary of state for approval, assuming the bipartisan panel doesn’t deadlock in its decision. The legislation would only apply to the 2021 redistricting cycle.

The measure would allow the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, as well as the most senior justice on that court who’s not elected from the same party, to appoint 16 “independent citizen commissioners” to the independent redistricting commission within 30 days of the bill’s passage, McConchie said Tuesday.

The commission would be required to have at least 10 public hearings throughout the state, with at least four to be held after a map is proposed.

The legislation takes language from the 2019 proposed constitutional amendment that received bipartisan support. A similar measure, which Hernandez voted for, was proposed in the House in 2016.

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March 31, 2021 at 06:00PM

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