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Redistricting Hearings Focus On Champaign-Urbana

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Rotunda of Illinois State Capitol
Rotunda of Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

URBANA – An Illinois House committee is gathering input from different parts of the state, as its members prepare to redraw legislative and congressional districts. On Thursday, the Redistricting Committee heard via Zoom from the Champaign-Urbana area — one of the few parts of Illinois seeing population growth.

Gloria Yen with the University YMCA’s New American Welcome Center asked for consideration for Champaign County’s newest immigrants.

“We knew that we had an uphill battle in Champaign County, where 51 percent of our foreign-born population entered the U-S after the 2010 census,” said Yen.

Yen says the changes in the county’s immigrant population justify waiting until detailed U.S. Census information is released, which is not expected to happen until September.

State Representative Tim Butler, the redistricting committee’s Republican spokesperson supported Yen’s request, and argued against Democrats’ plans to use older data from the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, or from the 2010 census.

“The greater Champaign Urbana community is not the same that it was 10 years ago, nor five years ago,” said Butler. “Yet that is The data that will be used if it’s moved forward, using American Community Survey data, or looking at data when the maps were drawn ten years ago.”

Illinois Democrats are considering the use of this data, because the Illinois Constitution requires that the General Assembly approve new district maps by June 30.

State Representative Carol Ammons, an Urbana Democrat, told the committee they have a legal obligation to meet that deadline.

“However that data is selected and chosen, however it comes out from these discussions, what is most important is that the legislative body meets its legal obligation to provide a map at the time that we were supposed to by state statute.”

Ammons did not mention what happens if the General Assembly fails to approve new district maps. In such cases, a bipartisan eight-member commission takes over. If the commission fails to produce a map by August 10, a ninth member is chosen by a random drawing to join the commission and break any tie votes. The General Assembly’s Democratic majority wants to prevent that from happening. While the threat of a ninth member was meant to encourage compromise, drawings were held to appoint one in 1981, 1991 and 2001.

Redistricting and Public Health

In other testimony, the Public Health Administrator for Champaign-Urbana told the committee that fairly drawn legislative and congressional districts can help eliminate disparities in health care.

Julie Pryde said local governments need state and federal help to improve public health for everyone, so public health data should play a role in redistricting.

“I also encourage you to look at Public Health data when you’re doing this map-drawing,” said Pryde. “Because our data that we have can get very granular and show where the health disparities exist. You can overlay those over other maps and see where some of the situations are.”

The Illinois House Redistricting Committee is holding 23 hearings for different parts of the state, on local concerns about the drawing of new legislative and congressional district maps.

Hearings are scheduled to continue through April 17.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Senate’s Redistricting Committee is holding its own hearings. The subcommittee for East Central and Southeast Illinois will hold an online hearing Friday, April 9 at 3 PM. It can be viewed at Virtual Room 1 on the General Assembly’s website, www.ilga.gov . 

(Updated to include information about Senate hearing — JM 4/9/21)

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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