Since state Senate President Don Harmon was going to tee-it-up by holding a Town Hall meeting in Oak Park this past Tuesday (July 13) to discuss the recent accomplishments of the Illinois General Assembly, I had to take a swing at it. Among the successful legislation he cited was the adoption of new maps for legislative redistricting. With two statewide elections to be held before the next census in 2030 I asked Sen. Harmon if he would support an initiative to establish an independent mapping commission for redistricting to be included on either of those ballots. His short answer was, “No.”
Sen. Harmon’s opinion was that it is a federal responsibility to mandate redistricting procedures as is currently the basis for cases currently filed against Republican voting suppression efforts in Georgia or Texas. Skirting any arguments about the 10th Amendment or the activities of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to have states adopt individual independent legislative mapping commissions, Sen. Harmon did agree that changing the procedures for new maps in Illinois would require amending the State Constitution which would require a statewide ballot initiative.
His cohort for the Town Hall meeting was state Rep. Camille Lilly, who provided a different rationale for maintaining the existing mapping procedures. Rep. Lilly implied that a proposal for an independent mapping commission could have a detrimental impact on lower income and/or minority voters who often have to change their place of residence. Counter to her argument, I had to point out that Sen. Harmon is personally being sued by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), which has made the accusation that the newly adopted legislative redistricting map has “malapportioned” Latino voters in Illinois, possibly reducing their representation in the General Assembly.
Rep. Lilly did not indicate any familiarity with the MALDEF lawsuit, and Sen. Harmon said that the map is pending the decision of the court. Subsequent to that legal ruling, there are nearly 10 years to place a proposition on a statewide ballot amending the Constitution to establish an independent mapping commission for legislative redistricting in Illinois.