You Don’t Apportion Legislative Districts With a Random Survey

Like every other state, Illinois is in the process of drawing new legislative boundaries as is required every 10 years after the taking of the census. This year is unique because (like everything else) COVID interrupted the process.

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The Illinois Constitution provides that the legislature has until June 30th to draw a new legislative map. If it fails to do so by that date, an eight-member backup commission is appointed to draw the map. If the commission fails, the Secretary of State is instructed to appoint a ninth member from a pair of names, one from each party, that he draws from a replica of Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat (the hat part isn’t in the Constitution).

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The last thing Democrats want is to possibly lose control of the redistricting process through a random draw, which is the only way the Republicans could possibly get their map approved, so they’re pulling out all the stops to convince people that it’s Republicans who control the redistricting process. They’re even raising money on it.

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As everyone who ever took a civics class knows, legislative boundaries are drawn using data from the U.S. Census, which happens every 10 years. All states must comply with the federal constitutional requirements related to population and anti-discrimination. For congressional redistricting, the Apportionment Clause of Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires that all districts be as nearly equal in population as practicable, which essentially means exactly equal. For state legislative districts, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that districts be substantially equal. Some variation is considered acceptable.

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Therein lies the problem. The Democrats in Illinois are doing everything they can to substitute data from wherever they can find it for Census data, which we are told won’t be available until August. They want the map drawn by June 30th so as not to trigger the appointment of the commission, which may lead ultimately to having a Republican’s name pulled out of a hat, which leads us to the American Community Survey.

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At a recent virtual townhall held in McHenry County, the chairman of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association said the map should be drawn by June 30 using “the best data you have access to, and make any adjustments, if needed, as the new data comes in.” She also suggested moving the June 30th date back to compensate for the delay in census data.

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See what she did there? By moving the date back, she’s ignoring the plain language of the Constitution, and by using “the best data you have access to” she’s asking that the map be drawn using ACS data, just so it’s drawn by June 30th. When asked, she admitted that she didn’t know anything about the American Community Survey. But what does that matter if it means we have the map by June 30th? To these people, the date’s the thing, we can fill in the blanks later.

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I recently had a chance in House floor debate to talk about what the ACS is and what it isn’t, where its use is appropriate and its limits:

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Watch this video on YouTube.

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