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SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Democrats deflected charges of backroom dealing and secrecy, as they defended their redistricting map in special weekend hearings in Chicago and a rare Sunday session of the Illinois Senate.

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Democrats deflected charges of backroom dealing and secrecy, as they defended their redistricting map in special weekend hearings in Chicago and a rare Sunday session of the Illinois Senate.

Republicans and groups like the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and Change Illinois said the Democrats are rushing to approve a map and are not being open enough to the public.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, criticized a legislative maneuver referred as a shell bill, which is essentially a placeholder for latebreaking proposals. The map could be placed in a shell bill and fast-tracked to a vote, possibly before the deadline at the end of the month.

“Putting shell bills in position like this is positioning the Democrat majority to be able to put a map out there, let it sit there for an hour, and blow it out of the General Assembly in less than a day,” said Righter.

Because the Democrats hold the majority of elected positions, they oversee and draft the redistricting map into legislation. Eventually the House and Senate must merge their proposals into one single bill.

States redraw their political lines each decade to reflect population changes. Data from the 2010 Census data is being used in the current remapping process, in which some lawmakers may see their districts trimmed.

But State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said the level of transparency during the mapmaking process was unparallelled. The legislature hosted hearings before and after the redistricting map was drawn — and the current proposed map is online.

“As soon as we had a proposed map, we put it out on there,” said Raoul.

Change Illinois Co-Chairman Peter Bensinge said lawmakers need to continue to involve the public in the mapmaking process, until the map is finalized. Change Illinois is a coalition of civic, business, labor, professional, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, and individuals united to combat Illinois’ culture of political corruption, according to its website.

Democrats plan to present a map to Gov. Pat Quinn before May 31.

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