Most legislative districts in area are larger than redistricting targets

Most legislative districts in area are larger than redistricting targets

SPRINGFIELD – Mostly because of population growth in Champaign County, the majority of area state legislators today are representing districts that are too large.

The greatest disparity, oddly, is in the largely rural 53rd Senate District represented by Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga. Because of robust population growth in south and west Champaign, Culta's district had a population of 226,526 in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

The new target population for Illinois Senate districts is 217,468, meaning at least 9,000 of Cultra's constituents will find themselves in a new Senate district in 2012.

Cultra's district includes portions of four other counties that grew – McLean, LaSalle, Tazewell and Woodford counties – but not at the same rate as the part of Champaign County in his district.

"I actually was surprised that it was only 9,000. I thought it would be larger because every day I drive to Springfield I go by (Interstate) 57 there on the west side and it has just mushroomed," Cultra said of Champaign's growth. "And then you go down First Street and on the west side there are huge developments that have filled in since I was elected."

There's uncertainty about what Cultra's new district will look like because most other Senate districts in East Central Illinois also are above the population target. Sen. Mike Frerichs' 52nd Senate District has about 2,000 people beyond the target, Sen. Bill Brady's 44th District is about 8,000 too large and Sen. Kyle McCarter's 51st District has about 3,000 people too many.

Frerichs, who lives in central Champaign only a few blocks from the southern border of his district, said he hopes his district remains close to what it is today.

"I don't have any interest in moving," he said. "There's going to be a process here with public hearings and hopefully they'll take those public hearings into consideration. We'll see."

Only Sen. Dale Righter's 55th Senate District, with a population of 213,429, is short of the target.

"It's hard to figure out where they're going to go to balance this out," Cultra said. "What really throws it off is when you get into Kendall County and those areas, some of those districts almost doubled. That's unbelievable growth. They're probably going to have to start in Chicago and work out. They'll be starting in the city and shooting some of those districts out into the suburbs."

Cultra said he believes his district again will be a "throwaway district" for the Democrats who will draw Illinois' new legislative districts.

"They try to get as many Democratic areas as they can and then push off all the Republican areas they can into my district," he said.

Asked if there was any part of the district he was willing to give up, Cultra said, "I like the whole district. I go clear over to the Illinois River. Don't know that area very well so I guess if I had to give up something I'd just as soon give it up in the western part. We'll just have to see what old (House Speaker) Mike Madigan and (Senate President) John Cullerton do and we'll have to live with it."

The good thing, Cultra said, is that he would be able to move if his district changed significantly.

"I'm giving my house to my daughter and moving into an apartment. I guess if I had to move someplace I could," he said. "I'm tired of cutting grass and doing all that kind of stuff. I'm ready to cut back on yard work."

Among the four area House districts only Rep. Chad Hays' 104th House District doesn't meet the population target of 108,734.

The Catlin Republican's current district has a population of 105,087.

The 105th House District represented by Rep. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, has a population of 109,839. Rep. Chapin Rose's 110th District has 110,024, according to the census. And the 103rd District represented by Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, has 114,337 inhabitants – 5,603 above the target.