SPRINGFIELD — Hispanic and Asian groups saw an increase in seats in both chambers, while African-American groups saw decline in the state’s proposed redistricting map.

By Melissa Leu

SPRINGFIELD — Hispanic and Asian groups saw an increase in seats in both chambers, while African-American groups saw decline in the state’s proposed redistricting map.

Hispanic groups gained one seat in the Senate and three seats in the House. African-American groups kept the same number of seats in the Senate, but lost two in the House, while Asian groups increased their influence for one Senate seat and three House seats, according to the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, an organization that advocates for minority interests. 

The Illinois House and Senate are hosting a joint hearing Tuesday at the Capitol to hear feedback on the proposed redistricting maps, which must be approved by the end of the month. The map currently is drawn for majority-minority districts that favor one ethic group.

States are required to draw new legislative district lines every 10 years to reflect population shifts. Population data compiled in the 2010 census is being used in the redistricting effort.

The proposed maps still have to be approved by the legislature and the governor before going into effect.
Josina Morita, executive coordinator for the United Congress, said he considers the map a victory for minority areas that had been previously split into multiple legislative districts.
“The wins are keeping Little Village together … having that area now being recognized as a community of interest … the same with Chinatown,” Morita said.

Little Village is a largely Hispanic community, while Chinatown has a mostly Asian population. Both are in Chicago, where much of the state’s minority populations reside.

Ami Gandhi, legal director for the Asian American Institute, pointed to Asian areas that remained fractured under current proposals.

“(We have a) growing population in the north side of Chicago and near its surrounding suburbs. It is crucial that Asian voting rights are protected. We have the legal voting rights that count,” Gandhi said.

The Asian American Institute is a Chicago-based nonprofit aimed at “empower(ing) the Asian American community through advocacy, research and coalition building,” according to its website.

No Asian candidate has been elected to the legislature or any statewide office, but new maps could change that.

State Rep. William Delgado, D-Chicago, said that even with the gains, minorities were still under-represented in the new maps.

According to the U.S. census, the Asian population grew 38.6 percent, while the Hispanic population grew 32.5 percent. Together, they comprise 2.6 million of Illinois’ 12.9 million total population. African Americans make up 14.5 percent of the state population, but lost 0.6 percent in the recent census.

Shifting African-American populations toward downstate Illinois also accounts for the seat losses near Chicago, said state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Broadview, who served on the state House redistricting committee and is part of the House Legislative Black Caucus.

Despite fewer seats for African Americans, Yarbrough called the map “fair,” because many of the changes were based on U.S. census numbers. Under the proposed map, she anticipates losing about 11,000 people from her district.

“I’m going to have to look for way to make that up,” Yarbrough said.

Morita said many African-American strongholds could still be propped up by these new maps.

The west side of Chicago, which under the proposed House map is between 52 percent and 55 percent African American, could be up to 57 percent.

On the Senate side, two districts — represented by state Sen. Annazette Collins, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester — are drawn below 50 percent African American when they could be much higher, Morita said.

“If (minorities) don’t make up an effective majority, they won’t be able to elect the candidate of their own choice. Particularly in areas like the west side and near south sides of Chicago, (they have a) declining population (that is) only going to get lower,” Morita said.

The Illinois House and Senate will host a joint hearing Tuesday at the Capitol to hear feedback on the proposed redistricting maps, which could be approved as early as the end of the month. Along with other minority groups, United Congress is expected to attend.

“This map does not belong to politicians. This map belongs to the communities, so we want to make sure community voices can be heard in this process,” Morito said.

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  1. Something wrong here

    There's something wrong with the Democrats. Why insist that people be represented according to their race? Would not compact, contiguous districts as mandated by constitution encourage integration to some degree? But maybe a cohesive population would undermine the parties' ambitions.

  2. Why the districts are gerrymanded

    As segregationist, KKK, and those who set up ghettos knew, if you can restrict people by race in an area you meet your goal.  Yes gerrymanding is perverse and racist but does provide the Democrats a voting block that will buy into the 'chicken in every pot' and get them re-elected.

    Look at the planned map.  Can anyone seriously believe the districts are convex, compact and contiguous ? or make any sense other than political goals ?

    Is this why we elect officials, to further segregation–this time by voting.  What if someday all the power goes back to white segregationists [I mean other than the Democrat re-district segregationists] and they find ways to exclude all minorities ?  Will the people like gerrymanding then ?

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