Illinois' Redistricting News


 The Daily Northwestern: "City Council compromises, approves redistricting map." January 6, 2004
Pioneer Press Online: "Map of redistricted wards close to being released." May 22, 2003
 Belleville News Democrat: "Census may lead to new aldermanic wards: Borders have not changed since 1984." March 9, 2003
 Champaign-Urbana Gazette: "Black Proposes Changes." November 10, 2001
 Champaign-Urbana Gazette : "Members of GOP Challenge Districts." November 7, 2001
 State Journal-Register: "Eight More Suits Filed Over Redistricting." November 6, 2001
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." November 5, 2001

 State Journal-Register: "Four GOP Senators File Suit Over New District Map." October 31, 2001
 State Journal-Register: "State Court Dismisses One Remap Lawsuit." October 25, 2001
 Champaign-Urbana Gazette: "Bloomer: Redistricting Throws Plans Out of Whack." October 22, 2001


The Daily Northwestern
City Council compromises, approves redistricting map
By Chris Kirkham
January 6, 2004

Evanston City Council approved a map over Winter Break that will reshape Evanston's nine wards as of Aug. 1, ending months of public debate and resident forums.

Aldermen approved the map at the Dec. 15 City Council meeting. The council had planned to vote Nov. 24, but Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) asked for an extension to draft changes that would keep traditional neighborhoods together in her ward. This map was a slight variation of the one chosen by the Rules Committee early in November.

Public discussion began last June, as the city must equalize ward populations before municipal elections in April 2005. U.S. Census information from 2000 indicated that ward populations were uneven, but minority and student groups quickly spoke up to ensure that redistricting would not diminish their voting power.

Submitted by Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd), the final map sought to address many of the issues discussed throughout the redistricting debates -- maintaining two black majority-minority wards in the Second and Fifth wards and not splitting the on-campus Northwestern student vote among three wards.

Leaders from Associated Student Government and the Evanston/North Shore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People took issue with early maps proposed by Ald. Arthur Newman (1st). NAACP leaders cited the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as a mandate for majority-minority representation in two wards.

The NAACP tried to achieve those goals by drawing maps based on the total population of wards instead of the number of residents older than 18, which was used in most of the previous maps. The final map is based on total population.

"We had two issues, one being to use a total population basis for creating a map and the second was to have two majority-minority wards," said George Mitchell, president of the local NAACP. "From my perspective, those objectives were met. Whether that was the best map, I don't know, but it was a map that got the votes."

Jane Lee, ASG's external relations chairwoman, also submitted maps on behalf of students. Though her map was not adopted, the on-campus student vote will remain in the First and Seventh wards. The resulting map will shift more than 550 NU students into the Seventh Ward, the ward that will change the most.

Lee said the student participation in the redistricting process has made the students a more credible interest to the city.

"Our relationship has improved not only with those on the city council, but there are a lot of partnerships now going on with other organizations like the NAACP," said Lee, a Weinberg junior. "I really think some of these partnerships will continue in the years to come."

Newman said the map was a compromise for everyone involved in the process. Though he wasn't particularly pleased with the map, he said redistricting was unavoidable.

"There were students that left the ward, there were longtime residents that left the ward," he said. "It's something that has to be done every ten years, and we dealt with it."

Newman said he thought Ald. Edmund Moran (6th), the only alderman who voted against the map, did it out of dislike for other members of the council.

"Alderman Moran has no credibility," Newman said. "(He) has been completely isolated on the city council ... Moran made no constructive suggestions."

Moran argued that the proposed maps were unfair to students. He said although students are not a protected class under the Voting Rights Act, they still fall under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Though students remain in the First and Seventh wards, Moran said the traditional student voting bloc in the First Ward no longer exists.

"When you're shuffling them around you're still dividing a community of interest," he said. "The plain fact of the matter is you're dividing a community of interest, particularly when members have traditionally resided in one electoral district."

Pioneer Press Online
Map of redistricted wards close to being released
By Bob Seidenberg
May 22, 2003

A group of aldermen is close to releasing a map that will propose new boundaries for more than half of Evanston's nine wards.

Alderman Arthur B. Newman, 1st Ward, told Rules Committee members last week that he and the aldermen he has met with are close to reaching consensus on redistricting and expect to release a new map in time for the next Rules Committee meeting.

The group is next scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. June 2 at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Newman said the wards most affected are his as well as the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 9th. He said remaining wards (3rd, 6th, and 8th) fall within the average range of population distributed over the nine wards of the city and likely will not change, at least under his group's proposal.

Newman spoke about group's efforts, which have been carried out in private discussions, at the May 12 meeting of the Rules Committee.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked what progress had been made since the panel last discussed the issue last August.

"We should resolve this," Rainey said.

Newman said discussions have been held since last year among aldermen from the wards most affected by population changes.

He said a map "that several aldermen" have discussed is about to be released.

Alderman Edmund B. Moran, Jr., 6th Ward, pressed Newman on which aldermen have taken part in the private discussions to date, noting that he wasn't among them.

"We have 74,000 parties who are affected by it," Moran said, citing Evanston's approximate population.

He also asked whether other council members would have a say in a new map beyond "having it placed in front of them and asked, 'What do you think of that?' "

Newman said he and other aldermen were responding to a direction set by the Rules Committee last year that the aldermen from the most affected wards try to develop an acceptable map.

He said the map being drawn up tries to balance population without bringing all the wards into play.

Moreover, he said aldermen have tried to respect natural boundary lines; for instance, not altering Chicago Avenue as one of the main borders of the 3rd Ward.

Rainey praised aldermen for starting to make progress on the issue.

Alderman Melissa A. Wynne, 3rd Ward, noted that the group was still at an early stage.

"This is not saying, 'This is it.' This is saying, 'Let's come up with a proposal and let's take a look at it.' "

Under Illinois law, the full City Council eventually will approve the final map.

Staff noted that state law also requires that the population of wards be as nearly equal as possible, and also as compact and contiguous, as practicable.

In addition, any new district must be drawn with fairness to minority groups and political parties, said Herbert Hill, first corporation counsel, and Karen Gikeson, staff attorney, in a memo.

"The principal ground for challenging redistricting plans is that it violates (the section of the Voting Act) that would dilute and minimize the voting strength of a minority group," the attorneys said.

Any map changes could have significant influence on future elections, including the role that minorities and college students play.

For example, because Newman's 1st Ward is by far the largest, the new boundary lines could shift Northwestern University students elsewhere, making them less of an influence than they were in the 1999 election.

In addition, the 2nd and 5th wards, where minority makeup is greatest, are likely to undergo changes because both are substantially below the minimum range of number of voters.

Since the 2000 census, some wards in Evanston are showing significant differences in population figures, particularly in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 9th wards, where populations fall either above or below the acceptable range of 6,253 and 6,911 eligible voters.

Rules Committee members also debated when would be the best time to hold a public hearing on the redistricting plan.

Moran recommended scheduling the hearing in September or October, to allow the public enough time to examine any proposal.

"Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think there's a big rush on this," Moran said, noting that the next municipal election won't take place until 2005.

Wynne said she hoped aldermen would "keep the momentum up."

The sooner aldermen move on the issue the better, she said.

"There may be people out there running for aldermen and don't know" which ward they would run in until there is a new map, she said.

City Clerk Mary P. Morris said Cook County officials have expressed hope that work would be completed on a new map before spring 2004 primary election, which could feature a hot U.S. Senate race in Illinois.

Belleville News Democrat 
Census may lead to new aldermanic wards: Borders have not changed since 1984
By Scott Wuerz
March 9, 2003 

BELLEVILLE - Belleville has not redrawn its aldermanic ward boundaries since 1984, leaving the largest ward with a third more voters than the smallest.

Mayor Mark Kern said the city will look at the issue after it conducts a special census, which he expects will show about 1,000 more residents than were counted in 2000.

Political science and government law experts said municipalities should use census data every 10 years to make sure their wards stay in balance. Letting decades pass without redistricting could be inviting a federal lawsuit, said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Chicago alderman from 1971 to 1979.

"That's basically unconstitutional," Simpson said. "(Redistricting is) required after each census. They don't necessarily have to change the boundaries. But they have to go through the redistricting process each time to make sure the wards are relatively equal."

Any resident could file a lawsuit against the city that would result in a federal judge ordering the city to overhaul its ward system.

"I think if they're taken to court, they'll lose," Simpson said. "Then they'll have to redistrict. In Peoria, they just had to change their whole election system. There could be quite substantial changes forced on them by the courts."

Kern said the city wants the special census' population figures in hand before redistricting, because he believes there has been significant growth that the 2000 Census numbers do not reflect. He said city leaders believe they have gained new residents as a result of housing growth and annexations.

Just the state income and use taxes, which are based on population, would yield an extra $77,400 if Belleville adds 1,000 residents.

Kern said the roughly $40,000 cost of the special census is being worked into the new city budget, which begins May 1. He expected the census to take about eight months.

During the past 20 years, Belleville's wards have become disproportionate. The smallest, Ward 2, has one-third fewer votes than the largest, Ward 7, based on tallies provided by the cournty clerk.

That means for every 200 voters represented by Ward 2 Aldermen Dorothy Meyer and Joe Shively, there are 300 in neighboring Ward 7 represented by Stacy Fitzpatrick and Jim Green. With fewer voters, Ward 2 residents wind up with a stronger voice, which violates the principle known as one man, one vote.

"Improper districting violates the U.S. Constitution because it gives more weight to the votes (of wards or districts) that are small and less weight to the votes of ones that are big," said Andrew Theising, an assistant professor of political science at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.He said the theory behind having districts is to provide equal representation of all geographic parts of a city, county, state or country."People are mobile now, more than ever before. So you have to redraw districts to reflect people who move," he said.State law is vague on when to redistrict, stating: "The city council of any city in this state ... may, from time to time, divide the city into one half as many wards as the total number of aldermen to which the city is entitled."The decision is basically up to the city's leaders, or a resident willing to bring a federal lawsuit.According to school records, Belleville's black population is spread out across the city's eight wards. But, Simpson said, if the city is forced to redraw the boundaries, it may have to draw them in a way that would create a majority of black residents in one or more districts to allow them a better chance of getting representation on the city government.City leaders said they were unsure why it has been so long since the last time wards were redrawn. In fact, current city leaders couldn't remember the last time the city redistricted. It was on Dec. 10, 1984, and based on the population counted in 1980."I don't think it has been that long. But I can't remember," said Ward 1 Alderman Wayne Saeger, who has been on the City Council since 1979.Green said, "I know it's been too long. We probably need to do that."In 1994, former Mayor Roger Cook tried to reduce the size of the City Council from 16 to eight aldermen by pushing a citywide vote on the issue. He failed, and former Alderman Devin Kaemmerer said no agreement was reached to redraw the ward map after the battle.City wards would also have been redrawn after the 2000 census showed Belleville did not have enough residents to support16 aldermen. State law called for a maximum of 14 aldermen for cities of fewer than 50,000.The 2000 census found Belleville had only 41,410 people. Kern and other city leaders disputed the figure and insisted there were more than 50,000 residents.The fight ended in the spring when the Illinois Municipal League helped Belleville pass state legislation to exempt the city from the law that limits the number of aldermen.

Champaign-Urbana Gazette
Black Proposes Changes
By Kate Clements
November 10, 2001

The state's redistricting provisions have been the subject of controversy for 30 years and it is time to make a change, said state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville.

Black has introduced a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would scrap the current winner-take-all tiebreaker provision for what he says is a more rational model based on Iowa law.

Legislative district boundaries must be redrawn every 10 years in accordance with the latest U.S. Census results.

The 1970 Illinois Constitution provides that if the General Assembly cannot agree on a map, the task goes to an eight-member bipartisan Legislative Redistricting Commission. If the commission cannot produce a compromise map by Aug. 10, the secretary of state literally picks a name out of a hat to determine the tiebreaking member.

Illinois is the only state that resolves a redistricting impasse with a random drawing, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This system doesn't work, Black said. It is a strange and convoluted way to do it. I think it's time to get us out of the gambling mentality.

Black's amendment would give the General Assembly until June 15 to approve a map by a three-fifths vote in each chamber. Failing that, the Illinois State Board of Elections would create the redistricting plan using a computer program.

If we cannot or will not compromise, you'd then just turn it over to a nonpartisan commission using computers and database to draw a map that would be fair and that's what you live with, Black said.

Ron Michaelson, executive director of the state elections board, could not be reached for comment on the plan to involve his agency.

The current tiebreaker provision was supposedly designed to elicit a compromise from the redistricting commission, because neither side would want to take the 50-50 chance that their party would not win the drawing.

That happened only once, in 1971. But the last three redistricting commissions failed to find middle ground. The Democrats won the drawing in 1981, the Republicans won in 1991 and the Democrats won again this year.

Lawmakers and supreme court justices on both sides of the aisle have criticized the state's redistricting process over the years, said Black.

This isn't a partisan issue and it certainly isn't sour grapes on my part, Black said. Quite frankly, I have no major complaints about my new district. But every 10 years we moan and groan about the system and we never change it.

On Sept. 5, the day Democratic Secretary of State Jesse White drew the name of former Supreme Court Justice Michael Bilandic out of a replica of Abraham Lincoln's hat, White voiced his disdain for the process.

When you are talking about drawing the lines for the next 10 years and leaving it to drawing a name out of the hat or flipping a coin, come on, White said. We have to have a better way of doing business for the people of Illinois than that.

And in 1991, after then-Secretary of State George Ryan drew the name of fellow Republican Al Jourdan, Ryan said, the people of Illinois deserve better, and they deserve representation that is not a lottery.

This year, groups of Republicans and Democrats filed separate lawsuits arguing the random drawing violated citizens' right to due process, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court upheld the constitutionality of the tiebreaker provision. In 1991, Ryan appointed a panel to recommend ways to revamp the system. The panel recommended a constitutional amendment to repeal the tiebreaker, and provided for the State Board of Elections to use a computer program as a last resort if the General Assembly deadlocked.

The amendment was introduced in the Senate in 1999, but nothing ever happened with it.

Black is hoping the idea will get a better reception this year.

It will need a lot of support to pass.

A Constitutional amendment requires a three-fifths vote in both the House and Senate and approval by the governor, and then it is put on the ballot, where it needs at least 60 percent of the vote to be adopted.

Charles Wheeler, director of the public affairs reporting program at University of Illinois Springfield, who covered the state's last Constitutional Convention as a reporter, said he does not have high hopes for Black's proposal. I would guess that the likelihood of that amendment advancing is about the same realm of possibility of happening as me going to spring training with the St. Louis Cardinals to replace Mark McGwire, Wheeler said.

People focus on the tiebreaker and say, isn't this arbitrary, isn't this a terrible way to do things, but they overlook the that there is plenty of time for the two parties to compromise on a map before the tiebreaker provision kicks in, he said.

If there was any desire to compromise, they would have done it, Wheeler said. That suggests to me that the leadership isn't really interested in changing the procedure; they are only interested in complaining when they lose. They are interested in gambling and trying to win the lottery. They'd rather shoot the dice for the whole ball of wax.

Champaign-Urbana Gazette
Members of GOP Challenge Districts
By Kate Clements
November 7, 2001

State representatives Tom Berns, R-Urbana, and Rick Winkel, R-Champaign, filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court this week challenging the way the Legislative Redistricting Commission drew boundaries in East Central Illinois.

Former Republican Urbana Mayor Jeff Markland; Steve Hartman, vice chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party; Ridge Farm resident James Chandler; and St. Joseph resident Steve Herman joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was one of eight similar actions filed by various House Republicans around the state.

The lawsuit claims that the new 103rd, 104th and 105th state representative districts do not meet the state's constitutional requirement of compactness, and that they "unjustifiably fragment communities of interest including the municipalities of Paxton, Rantoul, Philo and Champaign-Urbana."

Legislative districts must be reconfigured every 10 years in conjunction with the latest U.S. Census results. The Democrats won control of the redistricting process after a constitutionally mandated tiebreaker drawing earlier this fall.

"I well understand that to the victor go the spoils, but that also requires some reasonableness on the part of the victor," said Markland, who said he does not think the new districts make a lot of sense.

Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker and state Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said the commission's map "meets all of the requirements of the law."

The map features a new 103rd District, containing almost all of Champaign and Urbana and little else, while a separate district, the new 104th, covers the eastern half of Champaign County and all but the top quarter of Vermilion County.

That configuration separates communities of interest, which should be kept together, Berns said Tuesday.

"St. Joseph is connected emotionally and economically with Champaign, not Danville," he said. "The same with Rantoul and Gifford. They are connected by employment and personal bonds. Many of them work at the University of Illinois."

Another district, the new 105th, contains Winkel's home and the northwest corner of Champaign County, the top portion of Vermilion County, all of Ford County and parts of Iroquois, McLean and Livingston counties.

Because the new 103rd District is so small geographically, the new 105th District "stretches over six counties and spans 73 miles from north to south and 61 miles from east to west," according to the lawsuit.

Hoopeston and other communities in northern Vermilion County have more in common with Danville than they do with towns in McLean and Livingston counties and should be in a legislative district that reflects that, Berns said.

The lawsuit names Attorney General Jim Ryan, the executive director and members of the Illinois State Board of Directors and the nine members of the Illinois Legislative Redistricting Commission as defendants.

It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide whether to dismiss the case or allow it to go forward.

State Journal-Register
Eight More Suits Filed Over Redistricting
By Doug Finke
November 6, 2001

Illinois House Republicans have filed eight more separate lawsuits with the state Supreme Court challenging portions of a Democrat-drawn legislative redistricting map.

Among the areas challenged by the latest batch of complaints are the 99th and 100th House districts, which cover all of Sangamon and Menard counties and a portion of Logan County.

In all eight of the suits, Republicans charge that the districts drawn by the Democrat majority on the Legislative Redistricting Commission are not compact, as required by the Illinois Constitution. Instead of asking the court to scrap the entire map, however, the suits ask only that boundaries be changed in specific parts of the state. Altogether, the suits ask that changes be made in 46 of the 118 Illinois House districts.

The changes sought will make all of the districts involved more compact, said Gregg Durham, spokesman for House Republican Leader Lee Daniels of Elmhurst. The GOP is using statistical models developed by election specialists to suggest the changes, which could also make some districts more Republican, Durham acknowledged.

"When you apply it to the map, it becomes much more competitive," he said. "The Democrat map was drawn to be non-competitive. It (the changes) will improve our chances. It is also legal."

The eight lawsuits challenge districts in northern Cook County, Lake and McHenry counties, the southwest Chicago suburbs, Kankakee, Champaign-Urbana, the Metro East area, Aurora and Springfield.

Plaintiffs in the Springfield suit include state Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, Karen Hoffek of Sherman, Michael Johnson of Springfield and Michele Stott of Athens.

The suit says the 100th House District is "a non-compact, obtuse-shaped district" and that it "unjustifiably links the communities of Lincoln at its most northeastern point to Pleasant Plains at its most western point and Divernon at its most southern point." The suit also contends the district groups areas that "do not share the same education, social or economic interests."

The House Republican suits bring to 14 the number pending before the Illinois Supreme Court over the new legislative district map produced by Democrats in September. The court must grant permission to the plaintiffs in order for the suits to proceed, but so far has allowed just one suit to go forward while dismissing three others. The court has not ruled on the other 13.

The suit that is progressing was filed by Springfield attorney Mary Lee Leahy on behalf of three central Illinoisans. It charges that legislative districts in Springfield and Decatur are not compact. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Nov. 21.

In addition to the challenges in state court, three Illinois House Republicans have filed suit in federal court trying to overturn the Democrat-drawn map. They contend it violates federal voting rights laws.

House Republicans also sued last summer over the way Illinois handles the remapping process. However, a three-judge federal panel ruled that the process is constitutional.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or [email protected]

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
November 5, 2001

Squelching Phelps

Illinois Republicans moved Friday to block Rep. David Phelps' (D) new court challenge to a redistricting plan that throws him into a GOP-leaning seat with Rep. John Shimkus (R).

Phelps, who would face an uphill battle against Shimkus in the new 19th district, last week asked the state Supreme Court to reject that map. He claims the plan, drafted by a bipartisan committee of House Members, violates a state constitution mandate that all maps be "reasonably contiguous, compact and preserves the communities of interest."

"The map is contiguous, but we don't think 'reasonably,'" Phelps said Friday. "We're charting new territory here because no one has ever defined what reasonable means."

However, Republicans are challenging his claim that a dispute over Congressional redistricting can be resolved by a state court.

Phelps has already starting gathering signatures to file for re-election. The filing deadline in Illinois is Dec. 17. "No matter what happens, I will run in the district that has the most of my constituents preserved," he said.

State Journal-Register
Four GOP Senators File Suit Over New District Map
By Doug Finke
October 31, 2001

Four Republican state senators have filed separate lawsuits asking the Illinois Supreme Court to make changes to a new legislative district boundary map produced by Democrats.

However, the Republicans are not asking the court to toss out the entire map. Instead, they want the justices to tinker with Senate district boundaries using essentially the same map.

The suits were filed by Sens. John Maitland of Bloomington, Duane Noland of Blue Mound, Frank Watson of Greenville and Kathleen Parker of Northbrook. Each also have four constituents joining them as plaintiffs.

In each case, the senators contend that specific Senate districts created by the Democrat map are not compact, as required by the Illinois Constitution.

The 38th Senate District in north-central Illinois "unnecessarily protrudes into Iroquois County in a shape that resembles the trunk of an elephant," one suit says. The district also "arbitrarily destroys the city of Dwight" by putting seven of its residents in one Senate district and the other 4,356 in another.

Watson would live in a newly drawn district 145 miles long from Decatur to near the Mississippi River. It is described in his suit as "in total resembling an upended chair."

All of the suits contend "communities of interest" and units of local government are arbitrarily split, and each asks the court to re-pair specific House districts to create new &Senate districts the Republican senators maintain would be more compact. Two House districts make up each Senate district.

"They are prepared to prove to the Supreme Court that there are legitimate ways within the (Democrat) map to make the districts compact," said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Republicans. "By re-pairing the districts, it allows constituents and communities the opportunity to be fairly represented."

Under the Democrats' map, Watson's Senate district would include the 101st and 102nd House districts. Watson's lawsuit seeks to instead put the 102nd and 107th together in his district. That would rid him of Decatur while giving him Marion and Clinton counties, which he now represents.

The other lawsuits ask the court to make similar revisions to Senate districts while leaving the House boundaries intact.

All of the suits were filed directly with the Supreme Court.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, also chairs the state Democratic Party. His spokesman, Steve Brown, said the Democrat-drawn maps "meet all the legal and constitutional tests and speak for themselves."

The Supreme Court has already allowed a lawsuit to proceed that was filed by Springfield attorney Mary Lee Leahy on behalf of three central Illinois residents. They believe the legislative districts covering Springfield and Decatur are not compact and should be declared unconstitutional.

Since that suit was filed, a number of outside interests have asked the court for permission to become involved. Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale, and House Republican Leader Lee Daniels of Elmhurst want to join the plaintiffs and argue that several other districts are not compact. They are asking the court to scrap the Democrat map and approve a Republican version.

Meanwhile, several Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones of Chicago, want to join the suit as defendants, contending the map is valid. Oral arguments in the case will be heard next month.

All of the legal maneuvering is over which party gets to draw the new district boundaries, in essence determining who controls the General Assembly for the next decade.

Democrats hold the upper hand after gaining control of the Legislative Redistricting Commission in a blind draw last summer. The map they produced, which the GOP believes will give the Democrats control of both chambers, will stand unless overturned in court.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or [email protected]

State Journal-Register
State Court Dismisses One Remap Lawsuit
By Doug Finke
October 25, 2001

The Illinois Supreme Court has dismissed one of two remaining lawsuits involving a new state political map but will allow a second one to proceed for the time being.

Without explanation, the justices dismissed a lawsuit filed by several Illinois Democrats asking that the court formally approve new legislative district boundaries drawn by Democrats.

At the same time, the court is allowing a second suit to proceed that contends some of the new districts are not compact, as required by the Illinois Constitution. That suit was filed by Springfield attorney Mary Lee Leahy on behalf of three central Illinois residents.

In August, Democrats won a random drawing conducted by Secretary of State Jesse White giving them a majority on the Legislative Redistricting Commission. The commission approved a Democrat-drawn map that Republicans contend will hand the Democrats solid control of the Illinois House and Senate for the next decade.

To preclude legal challenges, Democrats on the commission filed suit asking the Supreme Court to declare the map valid.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, a member of the remap commission, said Wednesday she doesn't expect the Democrats will file any additional lawsuits. Instead, they will closely monitor the one that remains.

That suit was filed last month by Leahy on behalf of Diedra L. Cole Randazzo of Rochester, Harry R. Walton of Decatur and Kamela S. Wood of Springfield. The suit says the 51st Senate District, which covers part of Decatur, is not constitutionally compact. The new district stretches more than 100 miles from Macon County to Madison County, and at one point, the suit charges, is barely 10 miles wide.

The complaint also contends the 99th and 100th House districts are not compact. The 99th District covers most of Springfield, while the 100th District surrounds the 99th on three sides and stretches from the southern Sangamon County line north to include all of Menard County and most of Lincoln.

Democrat interests are asking the Supreme Court for permission to join the defendants in the case. Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones, D-Chicago, has filed to intervene, as has a Chicagoan named John Tully. His attorney is William Harte, a lawyer with ties to the Democratic Party.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 21.

Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527 or [email protected].


Champaign-Urbana Gazette
Bloomer: Redistricting Throws Plans Out of Whack
By J. Philip Bloomer
October 22, 2001

Normally by this time of the odd-numbered year, elected officials and wannabe elected officials are in full bluster.

Redistricting has confounded the process, as it typically does. Potential candidates for state representative and state senator are for the most part hanging back, waiting to see what state and federal challenges to the Democratic map may yield.

If Republicans announce now for a particular district, the fear is that the act signals tacit acceptance of the way the lines are drawn. There is the further risk of upsetting party brethren who may also want to run in that district.

That's the situation state Rep. Rick Winkel finds himself in. He has represented most of Champaign-Urbana and a district that stretches north to include Mahomet and Gibson City since 1995. The Democratic map draws him out of the new 103rd District by a block.

"I've been carved out of my hometown. I could literally walk a block from McDonald Drive to Lynwood and be back in my district," Winkel said.

Where he lives - along with the bulk of Lincolnshire, Devonshire, Devonshire South and Southwood subdivisionsare now part of the sprawling 105th District that runs north to Dwight and to the edge of Chebanse a paradigm for representative government.

While Winkel's pondering his options, another Republican isn't so bashful.

Shane Cultra of Onarga announced last week that he is going to run for state representative from the 105th District. Cultra is the Iroquois County Board chairman and owner of the Onarga Nursery.

"It's a vast agricultural district of all small towns, and having been in agriculture all my life, I feel uniquely qualified to represent it," Cultra said.

It's virtually certain that some Republican will represent it. Winkel would seem to have the best shot at it since he's represented large parts of it already and is an incumbent. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa, has also represented large portions of it, mainly Livingston County, and could run in the 105th or in the new 106th District, where he is barely included in the Democratic map and would presumably have no primary opposition.

The northern part of the 105th is Winkel's old stomping grounds. He grew up in Bradley-Bourbonnais, and his in-laws live near Chebanse in Iroquois County.

But that part of Iroquois County, a dog-leg stretch in the north, was included in Rep. Mary Kay O'Brien's 75th District.

O'Brien, a Democrat from Coal City, said that leg gives her all of Chebanse. Her district in the past, under the former Republican map, split Chebanse down the middle, following county boundaries that also split the town. Despite Republican disgruntlement with the new line, O'Brien said she didn't ask for it just because the new district puts her fiance's property in her district.

"That's not all true. My fiance does have property there, but I would have been willing to move anyhow," she said.

The main logic in including that area was to correct for population shifts and consolidate Chebanse. O'Brien is in her third term in the Legislature. She is not aware of any primary opposition.

Winkel and Rutherford won't say what they're going to do, and say they don't really know until the maps are finalized.

That leaves them all tiptoeing around the Senate possibilities, both the 53rd, which they are both in, and particularly Sen. Stan Weaver's 52nd District, which again Winkel is left out of by a block.

Weaver's being enigmatic as usual about his future. He and Sen. Judy Myers, both Republicans, have been placed in the same district. As a sitting senator, she can run in any part of the district she represents now. That allows her to run in the 52nd, the 53rd to the north or the 55th to the south.

Like Winkel, Myers said she wants Weaver to stay in the Senate.

"Stan's a great legislator. We've talked about it and agreed not to declare until the map is final," Myers said.

"Almost daily, and that's no exaggeration, I encourage Stan to run again," added Winkel.

One Republican who isn't waiting is state Rep. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon. Under the Democratic map, Righter was drawn into the new 110th District that runs from Mahomet to south of Mattoon. Instead of running for the 110th, Righter earlier this month declared his candidacy for the newly created 55th Senate seat. And he's definite about it, so definite he sent 12 faxes to this newsroom.

That leaves no incumbent in the 110th, but several names are being thrown around, Myers being one of them. But she said last week she's not interested.

In the meantime, the waltz continues. With redistricting challenges ongoing at the state and federal level, don't be surprised if the Dec. 17 filing deadline gets pushed back a month as the 1991 redistricting did. Wouldn't that be a shamea shortened campaign season.

J. Philip Bloomer is a News-Gazette staff writer. His column appears on Mondays. He can be reached at 351-5371 or by e-mail at [email protected].


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