North Lawndale activists are concerned that the proposed new Illinois legislative maps will no longer keep most of the community in one district. 

Under the current map, all of North Lawndale, except for St. Anthony Hospital, 2875 W. 19th St., is located in the 5th state Senate district currently represented by Sen. Particia Van Pelt. 

In the Illinois House of Representatives, most of North Lawndale falls within the 9th District, which is currently represented by Lakesia Collins. 

But both of the proposed Senate and House maps would move the portion of  North Lawndale south of Cermak Road into neighboring districts.  

Throughout the redistricting process, Illinois African-Americans for Equitable Redistricting (IAAFER) and Oak Lawn-based United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO), have been pushing for a map that they believe would create strong representation for minority communities while still maintaining equal population distributions. They argued that the new map doesn’t achieve those goals and they are encouraging residents to speak out before the maps are adopted in June. 

All legislative districts, including General Assembly districts, must be remapped after every U.S. Census to account for changes in population. Each district must have the same number of residents and the districts can’t dilute the voting power of minority citizens. 

To see the General Assembly’s 59 Senate districts and 118 House districts, click the hyperlinks.

Each Illinois Senate district is made up of two Illinois House districts, so House District 9 can’t extend outside Senate District 5. 

According to the Associated Press, the maps released Friday were based on data from the American Community Survey, not actual Census numbers, which have not yet been released. This was done because the census data has been delayed and the Illinois State Constitution requires the redistricting to be completed by June 30. 

Valerie Leonard, a convener for IAAFER, said that the two groups submitted a proposed map for both chambers that kept North Lawndale intact. General Assembly records indicate that both groups testified in support of their map or at least a map that would accomplish similar goals, on multiple occasions. 

Both chambers released the new maps on May 21. In the joint press release, they stated that minority representation was an important factor.

“Top of mind for the Redistricting Committee is conforming to several constitutional and statutory standards, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” it stated. “The Voting Rights Act prohibits the drawing of redistricting plans that results in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote based on race, color, or membership in a language minority. “

Van Pelt serves as a vice chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee’s Chicago West and Western Cook County subcommittee. Collins doesn’t sit on the House Redistricting Committee. Neither Van Pelt nor Collins were available to immediately respond to requests for comment, and neither commented on the proposals on their respective social media pages. 

Leonard argued that the proposal doesn’t live up to the public statements.

“When we looked at the map that they drew, it didn’t sound like they listened to us in terms of the boundaries,” she said. “We asked them to keep North Lawndale together and North Lawndale, historically, has been kept together in one district. Historically, it has been drawn as an African-American majority district.” 

Leonard said that Black citizens living south of Cermak Road would find their political power diluted, since African-Americans make up a smaller portion of the population of the new districts. Leonard also said that the new House District 9 would dilute Black votes, since its northern portion would expand further north into Lincoln Park. 

She also criticized lawmakers for not releasing the underlying population data for each proposed district. Leonard’s organization submitted a Freedom of Information Act requesting the data. According to a copy of the response letter shared with Austin Weekly News, the request was denied on the basis of the Open Meetings Act exemption for “records pertaining to preparation of legislative documents.”

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...