Ill. Democrats redrawing district maps

May 19, 2011 (CHICAGO)

This is the first time under the current state constitution that one party has controlled redrawing the state's legislative and congressional district maps.

Realizing the controversy their proposed boundaries will stir, Illinois Democrats are keeping much of their plan top secret. Even party VIPs can't get a peek.

As Congressman Danny Davis attended the Asian Festival in Daley Plaza Thursday he wondered about the proposed boundaries for his own 7th Congressional District. The veteran lawmaker was told he will have to go to Springfield to see the still-secret map drawn by the leaders of his Democratic party

"I understand that the district I'm likely to represent will have about 51 percent African-Americans," said Davis.

Davis is one of three black congressmen -- Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are the others -- whose districts are centered in Chicago, where the 2010 Census reports the African-American population had dropped by nearly 200,000 people.

Thirty-fourth Ward Alderman Carrie Austin, a Cook County Democratic party committee member, says the new map has Congressman Rush's 1st District, including many of Jackson's black voters on the city's South Side, while Jackson's proposed 2nd will center on the south suburbs and stretch much farther south into Kankakee County.

"Maybe this is a way for him to better grasp where he can have that third airport," said Austin.

Only the Illinois Senate has officially released an actual proposed map for its 59 districts, and the Democratic mappers have placed eight of the chambers Republicans in the same district as another Republican member.

Those targeted include minority leader Christine Radogno of Lemont, who on the new map would live in the same district as Senator Ron Sandack of Downers Grove.

"This is a process that's not being done with enough transparency. And it's again being done by politicians in their own self-interest," said Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association.

Because of statewide population losses, Illinois will lose one of its current 19 seats in Congress.

The Democratic party mappers are expected to pit Republican incumbents against one another while creating as much advantage for democrats wherever possible.

Sources say the Democrats won't release all their redistricting work until Saturday. Then they will have a hearing that same day at the Bilandic Building in Chicago and another hearing next Tuesday in Springfield.

The majority party wants the map approved by a simple majority before the end of session on May 31.

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