Chair of McLean County Democrats says county’s new maps should have factored in demographic data
The head of the McLean County Democratic Party praised the county’s move to take political map-making out of the hands of County Board members during a public hearing Monday, but the party criticized the panel for omitting socioeconomic data when setting board districts.
Five people, including three Republican County Board members, spoke at the sparsely-attended hearing at Heartland Community College. It was one of the last steps before the County Board approves maps that will be in effect for the next decade.
Twenty-four members of the county’s so-called "Red, White & Blue" advisory panel met over several weeks to set boundaries for the county’s 10 districts. Each of the three teams crafted one map for the County Board to consider. The chosen map that will take effect with the 2022 elections.
Patrick Cortesi, chair of the McLean County Democrats, said he “can’t help but brag” to party officials in other counties what McLean County is doing to draw its maps, but said he was surprised to see how much the three maps look similar to each other and to the current map that was based on the 2010 census.
Cortesi said the committee should have had access to more detailed census data that would show the racial and economic makeup of each precinct. He suggested the proposed maps may dilute minorities’ voting power. “If the committees were not able to see or use this data, how can we be certain we are in compliance with the (Voting Rights) Act?” Cortesi asked.
Cortesi added he was disappointed to see how frequently Bloomington and Normal city limits and precincts were divided in each of the maps and that Heyworth voters were split into two districts.
McLean County First Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher Spanos steered the committee away from seeking that demographic data and urged members to focus on the concept of “one person, one vote.”
Jill Blair of Bloomington, a Democrat who previously ran for the Illinois House, also raised concerns the committees did not have access to demographic data. “The importance of ensuring that the voices of the most vulnerable populations among us are ensured that they are going to have representation on the County Board should have been one of the goals of this process,” Blair said.
Blair said the committees also should have had access to precinct data to better anticipate which precincts are more likely to be redrawn next year.
County Board members Chuck Erickson and Jim Soeldner commended the committees for their work, but said little about the maps themselves.
“It’s a very interesting meeting. We’ll have to see when it comes to the (County) Board and then we’ll have our decision to make,” said County Board member George Wendt.
The Red and Blue teams decided they were satisfied with the maps they created and won’t make changes. Retired judge and Blue team leader John Freese said the committee was aware the county’s precincts were likely to be redrawn next year.
“That wasn’t our charge to redraw precincts obviously. Our goal was to essentially comply with the statute and draw maps that were relatively equal in population (and) that were compact and contiguous. We feel that we have done that,” Freese said.
Retired judge Kevin Fitzgerald, who led the White team, said his team didn’t have enough members present to decide if it wants to meet later to consider changes to its map.
The County Board is scheduled to vote on the maps at its Nov. 16 meeting.