Chicago Tribune: "Latinos seek more power in
remap; Potential for 12 legislators asked." July 25, 2001
More recent redistricting news from Illinois
An organization seeking to double Latino representation in the Illinois legislature asked a state panel Tuesday to redraw legislative boundaries by using a standard for measuring racial voting strength that some Republicans contend does not adhere to federal court guidelines.
Even so, other Republicans close to the process of redrawing the state's 177 legislative boundary lines to conform to the 2000 census said privately they have no problems with the Latino demands to create a total of eight House districts and four Senate districts on the Near Northwest and near Southwest Sides with the goal of electing Latino legislators.
Michael Rodriguez, a policy analyst for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, made the formal request for increased Hispanic voting power before the Legislative Redistricting Commission.
The commission is a bipartisan, eight-member panel that, under the state constitution, has until Aug. 10 to come up with a compromise plan to redraw district boundaries. After that, a ninth member will be selected to break any impasse.
In 1998, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a challenge to Chicago's ward remap that in deciding whether the number of minority-controlled districts is adequate in a new political map, only residents of voting age who are citizens should be counted.
Under that decision, some experts contend, more than 60 percent of the city's Hispanics would not be factored into the population equation used to decide voting strength.
As a result, MALDEF and other organizations have argued the ruling could seriously dilute the political impact of Latino population gains reflected in the census.
Noting that the U.S. Census Bureau does not plan to release precise citizenship statistics until next year, Rodriguez argued that the panel should create new districts that have a Latino voting-age population of more than 50 percent and ignore the citizenship requirement.
"Anyone who tries to come up with a citizen voting-age population at best would be [making] a guestimate," Rodriguez said. "It would be inadmissible in a court of law if this map were challenged."
MALDEF officials also urged the remap panel not to divide among several new legislative districts the Hispanic populations in Kane, Lake, DuPage and Will Counties.
Doughnuts figured prominently in testimony Tuesday at the first public hearing of the commission charged with redrawing state legislative districts, but these people were not talking about food.
At issue is whether Champaign-Urbana should be its own state representative district, with the large, more rural area surrounding the cities as a separate district.
The resulting map resembles a doughnut, with Champaign-Urbana as the hole.
The districts were structured that way in the 1980s, but the map was redrawn in the 1990s to split the urban area into two districts, each including some adjacent sparsely populated territory.
Districts must be redrawn every decade based on U.S. Census results.
The issue is an intensely partisan one, with area Democrats pushing for a doughnut-style map and Republicans supporting the current configuration, which has led to Republican state representatives in both districts for most of the decade.
Democrats say keeping the cities in one district is more likely to result in the election of a Democratic lawmaker from the area.
"If we had the Champaign-Urbana area itself under one representative, it would be better for everyone involved," said Urbana City Clerk Phyllis Clark, a Democrat.
But Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart said returning to a single state representative for the cities would "hurt us tremendously" and cause conflict by pitting urban and rural communities against each other.
Helen Satterthwaite, an Urbana Democrat, represented the cities in the Illinois House under the doughnut map of the 1980s and said Champaign and Urbana should be returned to a single district.
Keeping the both cities together in one district keeps the University of Illinois students and the African-American community from being split into different districts, which dilutes the voting strength of those two groups, Satterthwaite said.
Clear district borders, rather than a zig-zag line through the city, will improve voter understanding and voter participation as well, Satterthwaite said.
Republican Champaign County Board member Joan Dykstra of Savoy said a doughnut configuration would lead to one tiny district about five miles across and a second district more than 100 miles long.
Two districts of equal population and balanced geographic size enhances constituent services and voter contact with lawmakers, said Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden, a Republican.
Champaign and Urbana were not the only twin cities debating the doughnut configuration Tuesday. Representatives from the Bloomington- Normal area testified on the same issue.
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said there could be room for compromise.
"The hole in the doughnut is not the only way you can draw lines and still respect the communities of interest," said Currie, a member of the redistricting commission.
The commission will hold a second public hearing Aug. 1 in Chicago.
Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have released a proposed map for public view, but the commission faces a deadline of Aug. 10.
If at least five of the eight commission members cannot agree on a new legislative district map by that date, the Illinois Constitution provides for a tie-breaking member to be chosen by lottery.
A group of Republicans filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging that provision last week, claiming the tie-breaking procedure violated federal due process protections.
County clerks from around the state pleaded with the commission to pass a compromise map before the deadline, saying failure to do so would complicate their efforts to redraw precincts and local election boundaries in time to prepare for the next election.
Three Republican state lawmakers have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Illinois' system for drawing new legislative districts because it ultimately depends on random chance.
The lawmakers want federal judges to throw out the current system and take over the job of drawing new districts.
Having federal courts handle the matter also would mean any new map avoids review by the state Supreme Court, where Democrats hold a 5-2 majority.
But one GOP lawmaker insisted Wednesday that the lawsuit was motivated by questions of fairness, not politics.
"The redistricting process is ridiculous and unconstitutional," said Rep. Patricia Reid Lindner, an Aurora Republican. "We're the only state that does it that way."
Districts for all 177 lawmakers must be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes. If the legislature fails to agree on a new map - as it did this year - a bipartisan commission is appointed. If the commission deadlocks, a tie-breaking ninth member is chosen by random chance.
In 1981, the names of a Republican and a Democrat were placed in Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat and the winner - the Democrat - was drawn by the secretary of state. In 1991, the Republican was drawn from a crystal bowl.
"The introduction of luck or chance into this sensitive and critical process violates due process," argues the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday at the U.S. District Court in Rockford.
The other lawmakers involved are Rep. David Winters of Shirland and Sen. J. Bradley Burzynski of Sycamore.
The State Board of Elections is named as the defendant. Board officials were at a staff retreat and did not return calls seeking comment.
Republican Party officials said they did not instigate the lawsuit.
Brad Goodrich, the Illinois GOP's executive director, said he had not even heard about it. Gregg Durham, spokesman for House GOP Leader Lee Daniels, said Republican leaders are not organizing the lawsuit or paying the legal costs, although they knew it was in the works.
The Illinois Democratic Party had not seen the lawsuit and did not want to comment, a spokesman said.
One expert called the lawsuit's argument "a novel claim."
Michael McDonald, an expert on redistricting at the University of Illinois at Springfield, noted that ties in elections are often broken by flipping a coin.
McDonald also questioned whether the tie-breaking system really affects the quality of the map produced.
Illinois' system has been criticized by people from both parties. The state Supreme Court, although it did not strike down the system, did complain in 1992 that, "The rights of the voters should not be part of a game of chance."
In other states with similar commissions, either one party has a majority from the beginning and approves the map it wants or some outside party - such as the courts - picks from the maps produced by the politicians, he said. Either way, one party ends up getting its map approved intact, which is what happens in Illinois.
Of course, all that is subject to review by the courts.
Aldermen Consider Turning to Court Before Ward Remap
By Gary Washburn
May 11, 2001
Fearing future lawsuits over the remap of Chicago's 50 wards, several aldermen Thursday called for a court ruling that they contended would remove a dangerous legal landmine. Under a 1998 federal appeals court decision, local officials are required to consider only U.S. citizens of voting age when they draw new ward boundaries. But, in a Catch-22, a racial breakdown of voting-age citizens from the 2000 census will not be available until after the deadline for completing the new map. Under state law, the council must agree on a revamped map by Dec. 1, roughly seven months before the detailed figures are expected from the U.S. census. Because many Hispanics in Chicago are immigrants, officials believe that using the citizen-only totals would result in fewer Latino wards than if the raw numbers were employed.
Unless the City Council gets a judge's ruling on how to proceed or persuades the General Assembly to change the state deadline, "whoever wants to challenge the [new] map has a pair of aces," declared Ald. Thomas Allen (38th). Without a "declaratory judgment" from the federal courts, "we are drawing a map in the dark," asserted Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th). "This is a dilemma." "I don't think we can proceed logically without a declaratory judgment," agreed Ald. William J.P. Banks (36th). But Ald. Edward Burke (14th) warned that going to court could take remap responsibility out of the council's hands. "Everybody will be coming in from every different [political] perspective to file intervening motions," he predicted. "What may very well happen is that some judge will appoint a 'special master' to draw the ward map and the master won't care about whether or not St. Pancratius parish is in your ward or whether your mother-in-law's house is in your ward. "They won't know and they won't care," Burke said. "You run the risk when you give up the authority to have your input. Be careful."
Other aldermen who spoke at Thursday's meeting of the City Council's Rules Committee contended that the council should proceed with the numbers available. They said that other legislative bodies, including the Cook County Board and the General Assembly, are moving forward without the detailed census data. Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), the committee's chairman, said after the meeting that aldermen will consult with committee attorneys to discuss the advisability of seeking a federal ruling. The meeting was marked by what Burke called "a much more civil" atmosphere than last week's meeting, where minority aldermen charged that white aldermanic leaders were attempting to hijack the remap process. But the issue of race was never far from the surface Thursday. Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd), who is African-American, asserted that any increase in the number of Hispanic wards resulting from strong Latino population growth over the last decade should come out of the current white ward total.
Encouraged by census figures that show a rapidly growing Hispanic population in the suburbs, Mexican-American activists are pushing for the first time to create a new state legislative district that will concentrate the minority residents of heavily Republican DuPage County. The Chicago-based Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund also has suggested redrawing the boundaries of Illinois House districts in western Cook, Kane, Will and Lake Counties, where Hispanics and African-Americans could form significant voting blocs. The proposals are the most ambitious yet in a wave of efforts to give the region's minorities, especially Hispanics, more representation based on 2000 census results.
Pro-Hispanic remapping efforts are also under way at the county and municipal level throughout the suburbs. MALDEF's proposed new DuPage district would have a 21 percent Hispanic population. But while the organization has had success in shaping districts within Chicago in the past, this effort could put them at odds with some of the most powerful Republicans in Illinois. The venture into DuPage County places MALDEF on the turf of House Republican Leader Lee Daniels of Elmhurst, whose constituency the group's plans would reconfigure. "This is uncharted territory," said Delia Ramirez, MALDEF's regional redistricting director. "The Republicans have been posturing to be our friends." Daniels and another GOP legislator who represents the area that the proposal would affect responded cautiously Thursday. "This really just the beginning of what will be a long and arduous process with a lot of emotions flowing," said Daniels' spokesman, Gregg Durham.
MALDEF will present its proposal Saturday at a public hearing in Wheaton. The Latino population of DuPage County doubled during the past 10 years, as 1 in 11 residents of the county identified themselves as Hispanic in the 2000 census. Still, Hispanics would account for just 18 percent of the adult residents in the proposed district, which would include all or part of Addison, Wood Dale, Bensenville, Itasca and Elmhurst. Another district suggested by activists for western Cook County would be 36 percent Hispanic, incorporating sections of Stone Park, Melrose Park, Franklin Park, Elmwood Park and Northlake. Because the Hispanic population is younger than average, the vast majority of voters in those districts would be non-Hispanic whites. Nonetheless, MALDEF officials said they could amplify the Hispanic voice in state government if they can avoid splitting the largest clusters of Latinos among different districts. The point, they said, is not necessarily to elect Hispanic candidates, but to boost the profile of the community.
"I really think Lee Daniels will land on his feet
somewhere else or he could very well be elected from this new
district," said Maria Valdez, senior litigator for MALDEF. "We're not
out to ruin a politician's career." State Rep. Bob Biggins (R-Elmhurst) represents
the 78th House District, including Stone Park, where four of five residents are Hispanic.
In no other community in the Chicago area do Hispanics make
up a higher percentage of the population than in Stone Park. "That's an
issue that's a factor in the remap, and it should be," Biggins
said. "Clearly in the city Hispanics have earned the right to
added representation," Durham said. "Outside the city, they will enjoy increased
Aurora residents, particularly minorities, have little or no voice in state government because the city is carved into eight legislative districts, a newly formed faith-based coalition says. As a result, issues of housing, employment, education, poverty and diversity get little attention from the three senators and five representatives whose districts contain the city, the Aurora Area Religious Organized Network said last week. To remedy that perceived neglect, AARON, which seeks social and economic justice, wants state legislators to hold a hearing on redistricting in Aurora. The coalition wants all of Aurora in one Senate district and most of the city in one House district. But local legislators, all Republicans, said AARON had it wrong. Aurora, because of its large delegation, has more power in Springfield, they said.
Democrats, meanwhile, appear to be siding with AARON. "We would like to see Aurora become one again," said Rev. Roy Brown, senior pastor of Progressive Baptist Church on the city's near east side. "We note the City of Lights has its own identity, yet we are not recognized as such in Springfield." Brown said Aurora's "voting population was splintered" in redistricting after the 1990 census. The 2000 census showed that Aurora, with 142,990 people, is the third-largest city in the state, and its minority population is growing. Nearly 33 percent of the city's residents are Latino, and nearly 12 percent are African-American. "The east side of Aurora, which is predominantly black and Hispanic, has been fractured," Brown said. "We don't feel the inner-city issues that face Aurora are being addressed as they would by someone from the inner city of Aurora." With legislators living in "communities of urban sprawl" like Plainfield, Naperville, Oswego, Romeoville, Batavia and unincorporated Sugar Grove Township, the concerns of the city's large minority population are not being addressed, Brown said. Sen. Chris Lauzen, who lives on Aurora's far west side, suggested more representatives in Springfield increases, rather than dilutes, the city's voice in the General Assembly. "When we need to get something for Aurora, which would the Rev. Brown, who is a friend of mine, rather have: one senator and one representative, or three senators and five representatives?" Lauzen asked. "If it's really about getting a Democrat elected, perhaps we should say that." Democrats tend to poll well in the Kane County portion of Aurora, which is more than two-thirds of the city.
In the recent Aurora Township races, Democrats won the two top spots on the ballot, and in November, Democrats outperformed Republicans in statewide and national races. Republicans controlled redistricting after the 1990 census. As a result Aurora was divided among many districts, and all of its representatives are Republican. "AARON's mission is justice," Brown said. "We do not fight the battle as to whether a Democrat or Republican would get elected, but that Aurora would be one Aurora, and that a representative would represent the entire community." AARON, however, is likely to find more support from Democrats than Republicans. Lauzen's two Republican colleagues, Reps. Tom Cross of Oswego and Tim Schmitz of Batavia, both suggested having more representatives puts Aurora at an advantage. "If you talk to Mayor [David] Stover in Aurora, I think he's been pleased with having five votes on the House floor and three votes on the Senate floor, when most communities have one and one," Schmitz said. Indeed, Rick Todas, Stover's chief of staff, agreed that more representation was better. "In the end what's more effective, one voice or a bunch of voices?" he asked.
Though city races are non-partisan, Stover is a Republican. Lauzen, Schmitz and Cross all chafed at the suggestion that they did not represent the interests of all their constituents, no matter their race or socioeconomic status. But Kane County Board member Gerald Jones, an African-American Democrat whose district is on the east side, disagreed. "You can make the argument that our representation is diluted," Jones said. "They are sometimes unaware and uncaring as to what our issues are. ... African-Americans and Latinos, their votes have been diluted to the point that their influence is zero." Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, said it was likely a House subcommittee hearing on redistricting would be held in Aurora. "The fact that city was carved up did dilute their representation," Brown said. "The problems that occur in Aurora are high on everyone's list. ...These kinds of abuses occurred in other parts of the state as well."
The General Assembly, with a House controlled by Democrats and a Senate dominated by Republicans, has until the end of May to reach a compromise on redistricting. If it does not, a redistricting commission with four Republicans and four Democrats will be established. If that commission cannot agree, a ninth member will be selected to break the tie from between one member of each party by pulling a name out of a hat.
Hispanic groups urged state senators to draw new legislative districts that offer more opportunities for Hispanic officials and hinted at a lawsuit if that does not happen. Hispanics make up the majority in two current Senate districts and four House districts, said Michael Rodriguez, attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Those numbers should double under the new legislative map that must be drawn to reflect the results of the 2000 census, Rodriguez told a state Senate subcommittee Wednesday. The census showed a 70 percent jump in the state's Hispanic numbers since 1990. They now make up 12.3 percent of the state's population.
"Their needs and concerns should be respected and addressed," Rodriguez said. "We strongly advise that a failure to create additional Latino-voting districts ... could very well violate federal law." Senate President James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale, said he does not know yet whether doubling the number of Hispanic districts is realistic. "Quite frankly, I haven't looked at the Hispanic population. If they've got the population, they're entitled to it," Philip said. Rodriguez and other witnesses at the hearing complained that under the current map, several pockets of Hispanic residents are split among multiple legislative districts. That means they lack the numbers in any one district to elect a representative.
Victor Armendariz of the Interfaith Leadership Project offered the example of Cicero. He said the Chicago suburb - with about 66,000 Hispanic residents - is split among four House districts. People with similar backgrounds, incomes and educations cannot unite to elect someone to represent their needs, he said. "We find that ... impossible to stomach," Armendariz said. Changing legislative boundaries is a contentious process that requires balancing the desires of incumbent lawmakers, the rights of minority groups and the goals of political parties. Republicans could end up cooperating in creating new heavily Hispanic districts because that would pack lots of Democratic voters into a few districts. Other districts could then be drawn to give the GOP an advantage.
Creating new Hispanic districts in Chicago might threaten
incumbent black lawmakers. Senate Democratic Leader Emil Jones, a black
Chicagoan, seemed aware of that possibility in some of his questioning. He
pushed the idea of creating a Hispanic district in the now-Republican
Aurora area and suggested the interests of suburban Hispanics can be
represented by Chicago lawmakers. But Jones later said he does not foresee
losing any black-majority districts. The General Assembly will get a
chance to draw a new map, but if it fails - which happened after the 1980
and 1990 censuses - a special commission will take over this summer.
Cook County commissioners Tuesday said efforts to redraw their districts to comply with the 2000 census could be greatly complicated by a federal appellate court ruling that appears to blunt the impact of popuE made by minorities, especially Hispanics. Members of the board's redistricting committee, meeting for the first time since census data were released last month, said they may need to seek legal advice on how to apply the dictates of the 1998 court ruling before attempting to adjust the shape of the 17 districts from which commissioners are elected. "I think we're going to need some guidance very early on--before we begin grinding out a map," said Commissioner Carl Hansen. Or as Commissioner Jerry Butler characterized the upcoming remap process: "It's going to be crazy."
The 1998 ruling set a new standard for political entities in Illinois in determining whether minority groups are appropriately represented in political districts. The court found that only residents who were of voting age and U.S. citizens should be figured into the remap equation. Complicating the redistricting process is the fact that the U.S. Bureau of the Census does not plan to release data on citizenship until June 2002, long after the deadline for creating the new districts. That delay could also affect redistricting efforts for other political entities, including congressional and legislative districts as well as city wards.
Hansen said he wants an opinion from the office of Cook County State's Atty. Dick Devine assessing the "weight" the appellate decision should be given in reconfiguring commissioners' districts. "We're not the only ones affected by this," said Hansen. "We might have to get the Census Bureau to do those runs immediately." The federal appellate decision is only one factor in remapping a county that has seen dramatic demographic shifts in the past 10 years. Some districts have seen population growth of nearly 12 percent while other areas have declined by a similar amount. Census data for Cook County show a strong increase in the number of Hispanics of voting age, to 683,383 in 2000 from 441,279 in 1990. Meanwhile, African-Americans of voting age increased slightly to 946,148 in 2000 from 887,549 in 1990, while the number of non-Hispanic whites of voting age fell to just over 2 million in 2000 from 2.3 million in 1990.
However, a large number of Hispanic adults do not hold U.S. citizenship, though it will be difficult to gauge precisely how many until the Census Bureau statistics on that issue are released next year. The census showed that there were 5,376,741 people in Cook County in 2000. With eight of the existing County Board districts experiencing population shifts of at least 5 percent, some of those districts could face significant reconfiguration. Commissioner Herb Schumann's bracket-shaped 17th District runs from Palatine Road in Wheeling all the way south to Tinley Park. As a result of a population boom in that area during the 1990s, Schumann said his district must be redrawn in a way that may have to delete thousands of residents from his current constituency. Schumann said it's likely that part of the northern section of his district will be shifted into another district. But Schumann said he doesn't want to lose touch with the constituents and projects that he has worked on for the past eight years. "Even though it is an odd geographic formation, we have worked as commissioners in those districts and we're familiar with those districts," Schumann said. Butler faces a similar reshaping of his 3rd District but for a different reason. His existing district may now have too few residents, the result, he says, of the closing of several public housing projects. "I'm not sure where we're going to move to pick the numbers up," Butler said.
Despite the surge in Illinois' minority population over the last decade, a controversial federal appellate court ruling threatens to dilute their political representation and vastly complicate efforts to redraw congressional and legislative districts before next year's elections. The ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a minority challenge to the number of city wards with white majorities, was handed down in 1998. But only now, as politicians begin the always-sensitive task of mapping out political power for the next decade, are they beginning to focus on its implications. In Chicago alone, by some estimates, the ruling could mean that more than 60 percent of the753,644 Hispanics counted as living in the city in the 2000 census may not be factored in when new political boundaries take effect.
In the decision authored by Judge Richard Posner, the three-judge panel set a new standard for the region in determining whether minority groups are appropriately represented in the political boundaries that are redrawn every 10 years to conform to the shifts in population that are reported in the census. Rather than counting every resident to reflect whether the number of minority districts is adequate in drawing a new political map, Posner said only residents who were of voting age and held U.S. citizenship should be figured into the equation. Such a standard, Posner ruled, "best comports with the policy" of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which sought to end racial political barriers for minority participation in the election process. The appellate court ruling could have a dramatic effect on the state's burgeoning Hispanic population, which Posner noted has a sizable number of non-citizens compared with other minority groups and also tends to have larger families with children under 18. But it also complicates the task of mapmakers.
Political cartographers in Springfield and Chicago recently received census data showing various details that will help them divvy up the state and city population. But the U.S. Census Bureau does not plan to release data on citizenship until June 2002--long after the deadline for creating new political boundaries. Moreover, the data on the population of citizens of voting age that the census will eventually provide is only an estimate. It will be based on information the Census Bureau gets from residents who filled out the long form, which was sent to only one in six households. "They put this standard out there for proportionality, but it's a standard that almost all experts agree you can't come up with at this stage," said Maria Valdez, senior litigator for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Best guesstimate "I've talked to a number of demographers, PhDs and sociologists who say there is no reliable way of doing it. It's only somebody's best guesstimate," Valdez said. "They're going to have to come up with a guess and then ... whoever comes up with the closest best guess wins."
The ruling represents a serious complicating factor for redistricting, which is already the most politically arduous task that elected officials endure. In the redistricting process, Republicans and Democrats each attempt to draw political boundaries to maximize their political power for the next decade--at the expense of the other party. At the same time, lawmakers seek boundaries that will make their re-election easier. But the federal Voting Rights Act and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have created a difficult and sometimes contradictory field of law when it comes to ensuring that African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and other groups are fairly represented in legislative bodies across the nation. The federal 7th Circuit includes not just Illinois, but Indiana and Wisconsin, and by precedent the redistricting standard set by the appellate court should apply in those states as well. Federal appellate courts in circuits that cover Texas and Florida, both states with large Hispanic populations, have ordered similar standards for political redistricting.
A variety of groups representing Latinos contend the 7th Circuit rule is unfair and could undercut their efforts to flex political muscle proportionate to the rapidly growing size of their community. "We think that ruling has such specific and dire consequences," said Juan Andrade Jr., president and co-founder of the Chicago-based U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute. "And since it effectively disenfranchises tens of thousands of residents of the state, it obviously has constitutional problems." But, in his 1998 decision, Posner wrote that "neither the census nor any other policy or practice suggests that Congress wants non-citizens to participate in the electoral system as fully as the concept of virtual representation would allow." Citizenship's dignity diluted He added that "the dignity and very concept of citizenship are diluted" if non-citizens are allowed to be counted. In Chicago, the 2000 census results showed that Hispanics make up 26 percent of the city's almost 2.9 million residents, while blacks make up 36 percent and whites total 31 percent. But when voting-age population is considered, Hispanics fall to 23 percent and blacks to 34 percent of the city's residents who are age 18 and older. At the same time, the voting-age share of whites in the city rises to 37 percent. The minority influence on the political map decreases considerably further when the citizenship standard is applied.
In the 1990 census, only 37 percent of the city's Hispanic population were citizens of voting age, compared with 68 percent of the African-American population and 79 percent of the white population. If those percentages were applied to the 2000 census, the political influence of the city's Hispanic population would be reduced from the 753,644 Hispanics who were counted in the census to 278,848. With the release of citizenship data more than a year away, and elections based on newly drawn legislative boundaries scheduled in the state next March, officials from the U.S. Census Bureau could provide little guidance to political cartographers. Mapmakers need equation "They could manufacture some numbers by having a statistician take the known rates from the last census and apply it to the new (2000) population, but you're going to have some error in it, and it may not stand up in court if the numbers are challenged," said Dianne Schmidley, senior foreign-born specialist with the Census Bureau's Population Division. "Basically, it sounds like someone wrote a law and there is nothing to support it," she said of Posner's ruling.
Illinois' legislative and congressional mapmakers said they were familiar with Posner's ruling and were examining ways to meet it. But one cartographer said he was basing his map for the state's congressional and legislative boundaries on total population in an effort to show the courts that every effort was made to ensure as many minority seats as possible. Other states also are cognizant of the ruling. For example, in Minnesota--which is not part of the 7th Circuit--mapmakers are being told to draw their boundaries based on voting-age population while the citizenship data is pending. "I don't know how a court, in evaluating a legislative map that's done before the data is available, can be too critical," said Peter Watson, who serves as legal counsel in the Minnesota state Senate. "It's just information that we don't have." Yet many involved in redistricting in Illinois see Posner's decision as a basis for a court challenge. "They have set up a standard that is unworkable and impractical when redistricting must occur. We can't wait two years. It's got to happen now," said Valdez of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. "It's one more way to get things into litigation, which we'll be in anyway."
Tribune staff reporter David Mendell contributed to
A study released today by the Presidential Members of the U.S. Census Monitoring Board found that minorities in Illinois lost voter representation in seven legislative districts when corrected census data was not released from the 1990 census. The study can be viewed at http://www.cmbp.gov. The study, conducted by Dr. Allan Lichtman, one of the nation's preeminent election experts, analyzed the ten states with the largest undercount in the 1990 census to find if the use of corrected census data would have affected the opportunities for minority voters to fully participate in the political process and elect officials of their choice.
Given the history of the undercount, the study could indicate a significant loss in minority voter representation if adjusted census data is not released in 2001. "The implications of these findings speak directly to the future voting opportunities for minorities in Illinois. Without the most accurate picture of the state, equal representation is much harder to achieve," said Gilbert F. Casellas, Presidential Co-Chair of the Monitoring Board. "Illinois is among the most affected states because of the tremendous undercounting of minorities," said Lichtman. "Minorities comprised 82 percent of the state's undercounted population." Lichtman said the use of corrected data would have enhanced minority voter opportunities by increasing the baseline of majority-minority districts against which the next redistricting plan will be measured. The U.S. Census Monitoring Board, established by Congress in 1997, is a bipartisan board that monitors the Census Bureau's conduct of the 2000 Census. Its findings are reported every six months to Congress.
For more information on the Board, visit: http://www.cmbp.gov.
After the national civics lesson of the 2000 election, how about another item: What principle caused the American Revolution? Considering that Illinois has added nearly a million residents since 1990, yet will likely lose a congressional seat, the true cause of the American Revolution ought to have some modern resonance: Population compels representation. In short, you're about to be robbed in exactly the way that made the founders revolutionaries. And I predict no one--including Illinois' ranking pol, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert--will do a thing about it. Like the Electoral College, apportionment of congressional seats is not something most politicians--let alone the general public--think about. I have had senior editors of major newspapers, who know in detail the minutiae of polling and voter turnout, ask me: Wouldn't it require a constitutional amendment to expand the House of Representatives? (Congress can do it anytime by statute, just as it is a 70-year-old law that fixes the House at 435 seats.)
Politicians don't care and anti-politicians are worse. Ralph Nader even told me in 1992 that he wishes we had fewer U.S. representatives because he prefers lawsuits and street demonstrations to a Congress made unaccountable by "more and smaller elections" (sic). Imagine--letting the voters run the government through their employees. So the more you look at it, as a citizen, the more alarming that unexamined thought is--that increasing representation is somehow unconstitutional, unworkable or both. It makes you wonder why Illinois will put up with being robbed of representation for the third time in 30 years. For the first 130 years of the republic, the House routinely expanded as the country grew. Congress did not grow as fast as the country, to be sure, but it was a plus-sum game. That is, when the hard choices were to be made for which states got more votes in Congress, adding seats was the compromise decision. That stopped after the 1920 Census. Rural districts with power in Congress were threatened by the rapidly growing immigrant population in cities. So they created a zero-sum system in which no state could gain a vote in Congress unless another state lost one.
Since then, the population has tripled and we have added two states (and four senators), but not one permanent vote in the House. And every major and many minor evils in our political system are a direct result. Think that's crazy? Think again. Congressional districts are not communities. They are not even media markets. Literally nothing unites them except the political advantage of officeholders. Because of the zero-sum dynamics of allocating the same 435 seats across the country, politicians pick their voters rather than voters hiring their representatives. From campaign finance to identity politics, most of the debilitating characteristics of modern politics are rooted in the zero-sum approach to representation. The founders had a different idea--plus-sum, in modern terms. They believed that population compelled representation. That is literally what the American Revolution was about, after all: the U.S. colonies were taxed by British Parliament, where colonists had no voice. The founders sought rights as colonists that they would have had as Englishmen--insisting that "taxation without representation is tyranny." And yet Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York, which have all gained population, will lose representation unless the House is expanded.
The founders intended that the House grow as the country did. That is why the House expanded faster than the Senate--not merely adding senators when new states joined the union, but adding representatives as the population grew. This is what the House abandoned 80 years ago and which has rarely been challenged since. Illinois and New York votes literally count less than California votes--a lot less, when you measure the actual voters in congressional districts around Chicago, New York City, Phoenix or Los Angeles. But the solution is not to count only voters, or only citizens or only legal residents (all zero-sum approaches). Everybody counts--right? The 2000 election reminded us that the mechanics of the system matter, that doing what it has always done might mean that it is not doing what we want. So, call it the Illinois idea. No state that gains population should lose a representative. Illinois keeps all its seats, one of which would otherwise go to California or Arizona--but they get their new ones, also. A plus-sum result, like America itself.
Paul Donnelly specializes in immigration issues. He
lives in Hyattsville, Md.
Now that Illinois' census count officially confirms the state is losing a seat in Congress, the political gamesmanship over how to carve out the remaining districts will begin in earnest. In fact, the insider battle began even before the announcement last week, with many anticipating that Illinois would have to settle for 19 seats after the 2002 elections due to changing national population trends. Members of the Illinois congressional delegation have been talking about how to reach a possible compromise plan for drawing new political boundaries. There will be fewer districts but more people inside each of them.
``I don't see a lot of bloodletting,'' predicted U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Chicago. ``There is going to be some. There is going to be the normal give and take. I don't see the great big fight.'' The hope is for the congressional delegation to do the remap work for the Illinois General Assembly, before state lawmakers must do it themselves and then send it to Gov. George Ryan for his signature. ``Obviously, with Republicans controlling the governorship and the state Senate, it puts them in a stronger position,'' said John Feehery, spokesman for U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville. ``But it is too early to tell what will happen.'' Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said she understood U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski, D-Chicago, and Hastert have been having talks on how to reach a deal. ``Were they to do so, I would think there would be a high probability that the Legislature would respond to their request _ not a certainty,'' she said. ``It would depend on other factors. Are all of them happy? Are most of them happy? Are there issues about race?'' Carter Hendren, the chief of staff to Senate President James ``Pate'' Philip, R-Wood Dale, agreed that members of Illinois' congressional delegation could have much to say about their own fate in redistricting. ``I think that's up to the members of Congress,'' he said.
The nitty-gritty details can't be worked out for months because it won't be at least until March before the data is released about which areas within the state grew the most and which the least. Then the political number-crunchers will be able to tell how the movement of a single precinct into or out of a district would affect the population, as well as the racial, political, economic and other dimensions of the district. Legislative leaders have already begun lining up map consultants _ not just for congressional redistricting, but also for the legislative remap, the more important matter for them personally because it determines who stays on top at the Statehouse. House Speaker Michael Madigan has hired consultant Kim Brace, who also did the job in two previous decades. ``Anytime you have got any kind of redistricting, even if you don't have a (seat) loss, it is still a contentious proposition, because anytime you change anybody's boundary lines somebody is going to be hurt and somebody is going to be helped,'' Brace said. ``And as a result people take a very intense interest in what those line drawings are going to be.''
The Statehouse had been abuzz with speculation even before the census reported the state's population had grown by nearly a million to about 12.4 million - but not enough to keep all its congressional seats. State lawmakers have said for weeks they don't expect congressional redistricting to be such a big problem because of the ambitions of U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich, D-Chicago, who says he may run for governor in 2002. The most talked about compromise would create nine districts that would be considered safe Democratic seats and nine districts that would be considered safe Republican seats, with one left to fight over. Under one scenario, the downstate district held by nine-term Democratic Rep. Lane Evans, who has had some tight re-election fights in the past decade, would be made even more competitive. Evans, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago, also could retire. So far, Blagojevich has been publicly noncommittal about his political plans. ``In the coming months I will make a decision regarding where I can best serve in the future, but regardless of that decision, I believe the 5th Congressional District should be included in any redistricting plan,'' he said in a statement.
Complicating the picture are those state lawmakers who may be interested in running for Congress themselves. State Sen. Lisa Madigan, D-Chicago, the daughter of Speaker Madigan, the state Democratic Party Chairman, could make it more difficult to dispense with the ``Blagojevich'' seat if she wants to run for it. ``I am sure (Speaker Madigan) is not going to do anything that would harm his daughter,'' said state Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline. With so many possibilities, some students of redistricting say a bipartisan compromise at the Statehouse is less likely than a resolution hammered out in federal court. ``When the self-preservation of politicians come into play, you can throw out the rule book,'' said Greg Baise, a former aide to GOP. Gov. James R. Thompson and now president of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association. ``Anything might happen in Springfield.'' In the last congressional redistricting battle, a federal court approved a GOP-proposed redistricting plan that wound up forcing four Democratic incumbents to fight it out in two congressional districts. Over the decade, the Democrats' 15-7 edge was reduced to an even 10-10 split.