State Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, Ill., is defending the new Illinois redistricting map after it was criticized by Republicans.
"I think the maps were a good representation of the geographical, racial, ethnic diversity of the state," he said.
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday approved the maps that were a do-over from legislative maps that they approved and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed back in May. The new maps redraw the state's 177 districts (59 Senate and 118 House), determining who will represent people in the Illinois House and Senate for the next 10 years.
"So the Democrats in the House will gain seats on my estimation," said maps expert and political consultant, Frank Calabrese. "I predict they will gain five to six seats and they will certainly maintain a supermajority for the next ten years."
"The resolution that came before the map was actually quite honest and stated in it that it was some districts were designed because of pairing Democrat incumbents for political advantage," said State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, Ill. "However, on the floor, they would repeatedly say that this is not political; it is the best indicator of the demographics of each of the districts."
Halpin doesn't believe this is the case.
"I don't think there are Democratic seats or Republican seats," he said. "I think the voters will decide who they want their elected officials to be the way they've always done."
He is frustrated with the Republican legislators.
"I think much of the complaints that we've heard from the Republicans are about process, but at the same time, they haven't proposed any maps of their own," Halpin said. "I think it's because they understand that they're in this for a political advantage, and the criticism is based on their wanting to gain political advantage."
Calabrese noted that just like Illinois Democrats, Republicans are doing the same thing in states where they control the remapping process.
McCombie is calling for an independent, bipartisan commission to redraw the districts, similar to what is done in Iowa. Halpin isn't so sure about this.
"I think it would certainly be beneficial, provided that is also protects, you know, voting minorities. The state of Iowa is in a slightly different position, given their overall demographics, and the fact that they don't have a large city with a substantial population that would need to be split into districts," he said. "It is unwise, and frankly, illegal, I think, under federal law to pack a whole bunch of districts into Chicago, and keep African American and Latino voters in overwhelmingly large districts to their disadvantage."
He believes an independent commission doesn't do an adequate job of taking this concern into account.
State lawmakers have not yet voted on new congressional district boundaries, but with Illinois losing a congressional seat due to population loss, they are expected to eliminate a GOP-held district. Halpin said he doesn't know what the timeline will be for that vote, but he expects the former 17th District, which the Quad Cities are currently in, to get a little bit bigger.