Districts removed and redrawn as new congressional map comes into focus

Champaign-Urbana will likely find itself on the edge of a new congressional district with the Illinois Senate’s passage of legislative redistricting Tuesday. This remapping process takes place every decade, with census figures being used to create districts of equal population. Data gathered from the 2010 U.S. Census dropped an Illinois seat from the House of Representatives.

Should the map be signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Champaign-Urbana would be part of a new congressional district that County Clerk Gordy Hulten described as “significantly more urban” than the 15th District it currently belongs to. The new District 13 incorporates much of Springfield, Bloomington, Decatur and Edwardsville, in addition to Champaign-Urbana.

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, submitted the amendment of the Senate’s map Monday. Steven Brown, press secretary to House Speaker Mike Madigan, said Currie thought it was a fair map designed to comply with the requirements of redistricting under state and federal law.

Republicans have been critical of the new congressional districts for downstate Illinois. Tim Johnson, R-15, a five-term congressman and Urbana resident, called the unamended districts “a slap in the face to the notion of representative government.”

Johnson was narrowly drawn out of the Senate’s proposed congressional District 13, with the Beringer Commons subdivision where Johnson lives lying only a few blocks east of where the original District 13 ended. The new maps passed by the Senate on Tuesday had Johnson’s residence within Champaign’s District 13.

“The map unnecessarily and derisively divides communities for blatant partisan gain,” Johnson said in a press release Friday. “It was drawn without consultation or heed to common sense, and as a result I believe it is constitutionally indefensible.”

However, congressional candidates are not required to be residents of the districts they run for, only the state. Tim Johnson would be free to run in the new 13th District where he now resides, or in the more rural District 15.

The district representing Champaign-Urbana in the Illinois House, held by State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, should not see too much change, with the maps proposed by lawmakers placing much of Champaign-Urbana, District 103, in a “donut hole” within the surrounding 104th District.

But House redistricting could have a greater impact elsewhere, particularly for incumbents. The new House districts place only six Democrat incumbents in the same districts, while 19 GOP incumbents will find themselves running against another Republican in 2012. The Illinois Senate map reflects this as well — no Democrat incumbents have been placed in the same district, while eight Republican incumbents are in shared districts.

Democrats denied factoring in current representatives’ locations while redistricting.

“The information before the legislature did not include incumbency,” Brown said.

The maps being sent to Gov. Quinn received zero votes from Republican representatives, said Sara Wojcicki, press secretary for the House Republicans. Republicans have called on Gov. Quinn to veto the Democrats’ new maps.

“Governor Quinn has been a champion for redistricting reform for many years,” State Rep. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, said in a press release. “Signing this bill would violate the very principles for which he has stood.”