Senate approves new U.S. House district boundaries

CHRIS WETTERICH

SPRINGFIELD -- Employing their majority for maximum partisan effect, Illinois Senate Democrats Tuesday sent Gov. Pat Quinn a map of new U.S. House districts crafted to send five incumbent Republican congressmen into retirement.  

The map was approved on a 34-25 vote.

View the map

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, the sponsor, said the lines were drawn to satisfy state and federal voting rights laws that require the protection of minorities. Raoul told Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, that legislative staff members drew the map.

“I don’t know which specific ones,” Raoul said.

“Here we’re going to be stuck with these decisions for 10 years, and apparently we have nameless, faceless staff that are drawing the maps that the 12.5 million people of Illinois for 10 years will have to live with,” Dillard responded.

After the vote, Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago was asked which staff members created the map.

“I’m not going to tell you the names of the staff that we have employed working on – I would say the legislators are the ones that voted for the map,” he said.

Springfield area

If Quinn, himself a Democrat, approves the map, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, would be in the new 18th Congressional District, which surrounds the city of Springfield and takes in the rest of the metropolitan area. U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, however, would represent most of the city itself in the new 13th District. 

Johnson’s spokesman told Lee newspapers Tuesday that he probably will run in the 13th District. He might face state Sen. Michael Frerichs, D-Champaign.

“My family and I will be discussing it. I’ll make a decision sometime in the future,” Frerichs said, noting that he has a daughter who is 2 ½ years old. “She is a very big concern.”

Cullerton was also asked whether the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was behind a last-minute change made Monday that placed Johnson in the 13th Congressional District instead of the 15th and U.S. Rep. John Shimkus in the 15th instead of the 13th.

“As far as any individual district, I don’t think I want to address it. I’m sure people will be wanting to file lawsuits and take my words – I’ll tell you this, the D-triple C is very happy with the fact that it’s a very fair map,” Cullerton said.

More Democrats

Republicans said the map draws five freshmen Republicans into districts with each other or in strong Democratic districts. Dillard noted that parts of heavily Republican DuPage County were put into a district currently represented by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Chicago, that contains Wrigley Field.

The Democratic-drawn districts reach out from Chicago into its suburbs in order to cover the city’s 200,000-person loss in population.

“Maybe I have some constituents who fly Cubs flags outside of their houses,” said Dillard about whether his suburban neighbors have interests in common with those who live on Chicago’s north side.

Republicans said the map clearly was drawn to produce more Democrats.

“This map appears to be a pretty substantial effort at partisan gerrymandering,” said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the map is fair. The public had more than a day to look at it, he said, compared to a map drawn 10 years ago by 19 of the state’s 20 incumbent congressmen, which Cullerton said was released and voted on in an hour.

“I’ve been waiting for this debate for 10 years,” Cullerton said, holding up the front page of The State Journal-Register from May 26, 2001. “There’s this picture of this 17th District, the current 17th District, that is the most amazing, snake-like, gerrymander that has nothing to do with the Voting Rights Act.

“This district is so gerrymandered that the Senate Republican website earlier this year had this map up as an example of how not to do redistricting, forgetting to mention that they sponsored it and many of them voted for it.”

‘Politically fair’

Cullerton, who said he reluctantly voted for the 2001 map, said this year’s map splits 18 counties compared with the 31 counties split in 2001.

“The problem was the incumbents getting together and doing their own deal. That’s what I didn’t like about it,” Cullerton said. “If there’s any odd-shaped districts, it’s because of the Voting Rights Act. It is politically fair, and you’ll see that bear out in the next 10 years.”

GOP senators also said it may be unconstitutional because it does not create more Chicago-area Latino districts. That prompted an angry exchange over which party cares more about Latinos.

“This is a power grab,” Murphy said. “I think a federal judge will weigh in on this. And I think you’ll find some of the issues that are summarily dismissed out here on the floor are not so easily brushed aside in federal court. I look forward to being back here sometime down the road with a fairer, better congressional map.”

Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523. Political writer Bernard Schoenburg contributed to this report.