Illinois Redistricting

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Congressional redistricting plan into law today. Republicans are threatening to sue, backed by some Latino groups

The plan, crafted and passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature, carves up the state to neutralize suburban and rural conservative districts, which could allow the Democrats to pick up five more seats in the House of Representatives. But it’s come under fire from minority advocates worried that the Democrats are sacrificing the solidarity of their communities in order to weaken Republicans.

Under the old maps, inner-city Chicago neighborhoods and the more conservative suburbs of the city were generally in separate districts. But the Democrats decided to redraw many of these districts so they now include parts of the suburbs combined with slices of urban neighborhoods. The idea is that the Democratic voters in the urban communities will slightly outnumber the Republicans in the suburbs, preventing the Republicans from easily winning the suburbs. It’s an ingenious plan. There’s just one problem—it may violate federal law.

The Voting Rights Act of 1964 prohibits states from weakening minority voting rights, and Republicans argue that Democrats are weakening Hispanic voting rights by splitting up Hispanic communities in Chicago. Only one of the new districts has a majority of Hispanic voters, though many in the Hispanic community had hoped Democrats would create a second majority-Hispanic district. Republicans have jumped on this bandwagon, criticizing the Democrats for failing to “fairly represent the significant growth that has occurred in the Hispanic community.”

But Hispanic groups have good reason for wanting only one district for now, and Illinois’ most prominent Hispanic politician, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, is not convinced a second majority-Hispanic district would really be in the best interests of Hispanics.” The only ones pushing for a second district are those Republicans “interested in packing as many Democrats into as few Districts as possible out of [their] completely fictitious concern for Latino voters.” Many Democrats echo his view. State Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat, shares Gutierrez’s suspicions, joking that “I think [Republicans] woke up just the other night realizing that the Latino community is in their districts.”

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