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Chair of the McLean County Democrats left unsatisfied by proposed congressional redistricting

McLean County Democratic Party chair Patrick Cortesi.
Ryan Denham
McLean County Democratic Party chair Patrick Cortesi.

The chair of the McLean County Democrats said he is not satisfied with the proposed congressional redistricting unveiled ahead of discussion in Springfield this week.

Chair Patrick Cortesi said he has mixed feelings on the proposed maps, which were drawn by Democrats who hold majorities in Springfield. He said the intentions are good for the party, but the execution was subpar.

“I think what they are trying to do is establish a Democratic majority for congressional representatives to counteract what is happening in the states around Illinois,” said Cortesi.

Cortesi said he'd prefer a nonpartisan map be drawn, but noted Illinois is not the only state being gerrymandered.

“But the reality of the situation is, this is a national issue, right? And we can't expect Democrats to play by the rules and do things the right way if our Republican friends are not willing to do the same,” said Cortesi.

That echoes comments from other county-level Democrats. As one recently told The Atlantic: "If across the country every (Democrat) is for independent commissions and every Republican is aggressively gerrymandering maps, then the outcome is still a Republican takeover of the United States of America with a modern Republican Party that is fundamentally authoritarian and antidemocratic."

The first draft of the new maps would divide Mclean County into three different congressional districts, making for an eventful midterm election. If approved as-is, that would pit Republican incumbents Darin LaHood and Mary Miller against each other in a 2022 primary in the 16th Congressional District. That would include much of south Bloomington and northeast Normal.

The rest of Bloomington-Normal would be in the new 17th Congressional District, which would stretch west to Peoria and beyond. Cortesi said he thinks there is a good chance of electing a Democrat in the 17th District, a better one than the current two districts that includes Bloomington-Normal.

“I understand people’s frustrations. I am frustrated as well. But I know our representatives in Springfield as doing the best they can,” said Cortesi.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years after the census. Another wrinkle this time is that Illinois lost population, so it will lose a congressional seat (from 18 to 17).

The maps that Democrats proposed in the General Assembly would reduce the amount of Republican leaning districts from five to three. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy called the maps, which would still change as lawmakers discuss them this week in Springfield, the "Nancy (Pelosi) protection plan."

The McLean County Republican Party chair did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Jack Graue is a student reporter at WGLT. He joined WGLT in summer 2021. He is also a student in the School of Communication at Illinois State University.