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Partisan or independent map? Republicans demand transparency from Pritzker administration on redistricting issue

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4.19 Redistricting

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Top Republican members of the Illinois House and Senate Redistricting Committees hoped Gov. JB Pritzker would give his perspective Monday on how the state's new maps should be drawn. However, the governor turned down the invitation to appear during a hearing in East St. Louis. That decision led Republicans to believe he's allowing Democrats to make the maps as they please.

Sen. Jason Barickman says Pritzker should lead on this issue instead of waiting for Democrats to make a partisan map. In 2018, Pritzker campaigned on a promise to veto or turn down any partisan map made by lawmakers. Pritzker also called for an amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow for an independent redistricting commission.

That's an idea many on both sides of the aisle have supported before, and Barickman is pushing for an independent process this year.

"The governor needs to not allow the Democrats to play out what appears to be a partisan process," Barickman said. "He has an opportunity to influence it and influence it greatly."

Barickman feels Pritzker should use his megaphone to reaffirm his promise to veto any unfair map.

"We get crickets from them."

The Bloomington Republican introduced a proposal earlier this year for an independent redistricting commission. His idea hasn't gained support from any Democrats, even though Republicans used identical language from a bill with bipartisan support last year.

"Democrats in this important year are nowhere to be seen or heard. We get crickets from them. It's unfortunate," Barickman said. "We're going to continue to work to generate public support for an independent commission because I think the public has an opportunity to influence those Democratic lawmakers who otherwise will be hypocrites. They said this when they were a candidate, but they're not willing to favor an independent commission when it actually matters."

The Pritzker administration did not respond to the Capitol Bureau's request for comment.

Joint Committee Hearing

During the hearing Monday night, Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Belleville) reminded lawmakers that the Illinois constitution doesn't require census data for redistricting. The state won't receive that critical data until the middle of August or early September. He stressed the General Assembly must have new maps completed by June 30.

"This means we cannot put off this process until census data is released as some have argued we should," Belt explained. "If the General Assembly misses the June 30 deadline, mapmaking will be turned over to a commission of political insiders. The public would be cut out of the process entirely. This is not an independent commission as some have wrongly claimed. It is a commission of political appointees named by legislative leaders."

Belt argued moving to that process is a "disservice" to the people of Illinois. Sen. Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon) later called the Republican proposal a false choice.

"Republicans know that this bill is nothing but a smokescreen. A bill cannot trump the constitution. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about that. A bill cannot trump the constitution," Crowe said. "We have a June 30 deadline to draw a map. If we fail to meet that deadline, we - Democrats and Republicans - have failed."

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Mike Miletich

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