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Community needs must factor into redistricting, good-government group says

By LILY BOHLKE, Producer

Public News Service

The long-awaited, detailed demographic census data is set to be released Thursday, and in Illinois, good-government groups are urging that state lawmakers engage more with the community as they draw new voting-district maps for the next decade of elections.

Common Cause Illinois executive director Jay Young said it’s important to keep people with common values – related to race or ethnicity, a school zone, park or community center – in the same district, so they can make their views known to their legislators.

“You want to make sure,” he said, “that somebody is going to Springfield, somebody is going into City Council, to the county board, what have you, that is really thinking about the needs of not just you, but your entire community.”

Young said it’s also important for communities to have voting power to replace officials who aren’t responsive to their needs.

Illinois has one of the earliest deadlines for submitting state legislative maps, and this year the Legislature chose to use data from the 2010 census, along with updates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Young said congressional maps and many local maps are yet to be drawn.

Young added that even the state legislative maps are subject to change. Lawsuits are pending about whether using American Community Survey data instead of the full census results is acceptable. He also urged folks to get involved at the county, municipal or school-board level.

“You can’t just stay focused on state-level government,” he said. “Your local redistricting process is also really important, if you have an opportunity to participate in that.”

In 2020, 62 out of 138 state legislative elections were uncontested. Advocates for redistricting reform have said that’s partly because of gerrymandering, when lawmakers use redistricting as a political tool to manipulate election outcomes in their favor.

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