GOP, Latino group unhappy with new Democratic-drawn state legislative maps
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND STEPHEN DI BENEDETTO Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief email@example.com May 27, 2011 10:54AM
Updated: September 3, 2011 12:31AM
SPRINGFIELD — The Democratic-led House and Senate gave quick approval Friday to new legislative boundaries that could put Republicans at the Statehouse in the political deep freeze for 10 years — but could face an uncertain legal fate.
“It will serve the citizens of Illinois well over the next 10 years. It’s a competitive map. It’s a fair map,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), chief House sponsor of the legislative redistricting bill.
The measures establishing new Democratic-friendly boundaries across much of the state passed each chamber on partisan roll calls and now head to Gov. Quinn, who said Friday it was “premature” for him to stake out a position on the House and Senate maps.
“I’ve said it over and over, it’s got to be fair. I’ll tell every member of the General Assembly, both houses, both parties, emphasize fairness,” Quinn said.
The maps before Quinn wound up facing opposition from a key Latino advocacy organization with a history of filing redistricting lawsuits, including in Illinois.
“We have studied the map very carefully, and we don’t consider it a good map,” said Elisa Alfonso, redistricting coordinator for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who declined to say whether her group would challenge these maps in federal court as it did an earlier set of boundaries in 1991.
MALDEF contended what lawmakers approved “fractures communities of interest and weakens the voting strength of Latino neighborhoods,” including having Little Village split into two House and Senate districts rather than keeping the Latino community united.
During her floor speech, Currie told lawmakers that MALDEF had requested such a division, but Alfonso angrily denounced that statement from the No. 2 House Democrat as a “flat-out lie.”
“Anyone who says that is just working to protect incumbents,” she said.
Currie could not be reached Friday evening, and a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) declined comment on MALDEF’s allegation.
Republicans, meanwhile, railed that Democrats failed to give the public adequate time to provide input on the maps, which were released one week ago and the subject of two legislative hearings last weekend.
And in the Senate, state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) pressed Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, on whether the maps — redrawn to reflect population shifts detailed in the Census — were fair to Republicans.
In all, 17 House Republicans were pitted against one another through the shifting of boundaries, while eight Senate Republicans faced the same fate.
“I think everything we do in this building is political,” Raoul responded.