(The Center Square) – Spring in Illinois is not only going to see a contentious conversation about how to address the state’s unbalanced budget but also how its political boundaries will be drawn and who will hold the pen.
Illinois’ lawmaker districts at the state and federal level are diced into jurisdictions by a process triggered by reapportionment. Once the president and Congress receive the decennial Census figures, they’re forwarded to each state. The clock then begins for either an independent commission or the ruling political party to rearrange the districts according to population.
Long-time Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan had traditionally held the cards when new population figures came down from the federal government’s decennial Census, but that power is now in question after Democrats handed the gavel to Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside.
Madigan is still the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, a position responsible for furthering the success of the state’s largest political organization. Emails to Madigan and Welch were not returned immediately as of Thursday afternoon.
“How things roll out here in the near future’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of influence Mike Madigan is going to have moving forward, within redistricting and within the Democratic Party overall,” said state Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield.
Butler filed legislation that, if enacted, would create a nonpartisan redistricting commission that would redraw the state’s political boundaries. The measure was struck from the ballot by the Illinois Supreme Court.
“The longer we wait, the less likely this is to happen, and the more we’re going to get trapped in the old ways we’ve drawn maps in Illinois on a partisan basis,” Butler said. “Whether it’s Democrats or Republicans, we’ve both taken advantage of gerrymandering districts to our own benefit. People are done with it.”
One particular wild card in 2020 is the delay of Census data due to COVID-19. Should the delay creep up against Illinois’ Constitutional deadline of June 30 and the state not finish the rearrangement, a bipartisan commission would be created to do so. The fifth member, and the swing vote, would be decided by drawing names out of a replica of Abe Lincoln’s hat. That could result in Republicans taking over the process for the first time since 1991 when that situation played out, handing control of the state Legislature to the GOP.
Butler said Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who pledged to veto any map he deemed “unfair,” should interject in the process.