Map awaits Quinn's signature, may face Republican court challenge

SPRINGFIELD — In less than eight hours, Illinois Democrats passed out of both houses a new map of House and Senate legislative districts aimed at strengthening their grip on state politics.

All that is needed now is the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn, also a Democrat. A legal challenge, though, is considered possible.

"I think there's a possibility of that," Sen. Dale Righter, R-Charleston, said after the Friday evening Senate vote. "But no final decision has been made on that. This process has moved at such a greased-lightning fashion that the people who need to look at these lines and examine them by political numbers, they haven't had a chance to do that."

The legislative redistricting proposal cleared the House on a 64-52 party-line vote. The Senate followed with a 35-22 party-line vote.

If approved, the maps will become effective with next spring's primary election.

Neither house of the Legislature has taken up the proposed congressional district map that was unveiled Friday morning.

Republicans in both houses condemned the redistricting process and said that citizens haven't had enough time to review the new legislative map, which was revised from the first version that was revealed last Friday. Most of the revisions were related to complaints from Latino groups about districts on Chicago's South Side.

"This process has never, ever been fair with respect to the redistricting of our state," said Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale. "In fact, Illinois' redistricting process is rotten to the core. It just doesn't work."

Dillard said that with computers, "there is a better way to do this." He said lawmakers should "let the computer pick the districts. That's the way it ought to be done in 2011, not the way it is here."

Earlier in a Senate committee, Democrat Sen. Kwame Raoul said that this year's redistricting process had been more open and transparent than ever before.

Dillard responded, "To say that this has been the most open and transparent process in the history of the state of Illinois is sort of like comparing the transparency of the KGB to the CIA."

There were similar complaints about the process in the House.

"Where is the public supposed to go to for input on the final version of this map?" asked Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville.

But Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, noted that the map's revisions had come after two hearings in the last week, one in Chicago and one in Springfield.

"It does represent our effort to make sure that people who bring legitimate issues to us were given an opportunity to be heard," Currie said. "This has been the most open redistricting process in the history of the state of Illinois."

"That doesn't mean it couldn't have been better," Eddy said. "People haven't had a chance to respond to the final version."

"It's not a perfect map because there isn't any such thing," Currie said. "There will be some of us individual members, some on your side of the aisle, some on mine, who are happy and some who are unhappy. But we think this map protects minority rights, is consistent with federal and state laws that protect minority voting rights, and it follows all applicable laws, ours as well as federal."

Locally, the map makes relatively minor changes to the House and Senate districts that take in Champaign-Urbana and Danville.

But areas west of Champaign would move into a new 51st Senate District that includes all or parts of Champaign, Vermilion, McLean, DeWitt, Piatt, Macon, Moultrie, Shelby, Douglas and Edgar counties. State Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, has already indicated a willingness to run for the Senate seat.

To the south, state Sen. Dale Righter's 55th District would move much farther south, losing Champaign and Douglas counties.

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