The Illinois Senate has approved a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would change the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn but rejected one that would have eliminated the lieutenant governor’s office. Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, sponsored the redistricting amendment, which is similar to one the Senate approved in 2010 that failed to win approval in the House. Unlike a current proposal from House Democrats and another backed by the group Independent Maps, Raoul’s measure would leave the task of redrawing boundaries largely in the hands of state lawmakers. “Here in the state of Illinois, we are fortunate to have a state with a diverse population,” Raoul said, arguing that his measure would do the most to protect influence of minority voters.
One way it would do that is by doing away with the requirement that each of the state’s 59 Senate districts be divided into two House districts. This would allow a better opportunity for voters in communities such as Chicago’s Chinatown to elect officials who represent them, Raoul said.
Under his plan, the General Assembly would be required to adopt a map by a set deadline each decade following the U.S. census. If it failed to do so, each chamber would adopt its own map. If that failed, commissions appointed by the leaders of each chamber would get their turn. If the commissions failed, the two most senior Illinois Supreme Court justices of opposite political parties would appoint a “special master” to create the map.
The measure also would require at least 10 public hearings across the state before a map could be adopted. The proposed amendment cleared the Senate on a 39-19 vote, with Republicans voting as a bloc in opposition, with the exception of Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview.