Chesney Guest Column: Working to Ensure Fair Representation for Northwest Illinois Residents

Over the past few weeks, the Illinois Democrats currently in charge of the State’s redistricting process have been holding mostly virtual, and a few hybrid and in-person, hearings throughout Illinois to garner resident feedback on the redistricting process following the decennial census.

Many of the narrative testimonies provided by groups representing ethnic minority populations protected by the federal and state Voting Rights Acts have focused on the need for better representation of minority populations in Illinois to ensure the maps for the next ten years parallel demographic population trends which will be seen in the full Census data when released. Certainly, this is a shared goal across the aisle. Districts should look like people who live within those districts. Where Republicans differ with Democrats in charge of the map-making process is in Republicans strong position in favor of voters picking their politicians versus politicians picking their voters.

I provide this background to exhibit the continually professed desire to allow views from every population in Illinois to be represented in the legislature by the Democrat Majority in control of all branches of state government in Illinois.

While full US Census data is not yet available to determine if Democrats in charge of the map-making process live up to their promises of fair representation of ethnic minorities, there is another measure by which we can judge the majority’s professed desire that viewpoints from every population in Illinois be represented. There are 118 members in the Illinois House. Democrats compose 62% of the members in the House or 73 legislators. Republicans currently compose 38% of the members in the House or 45 legislators, under this map drawn by Democrats which Illinoisans have lived under for the past ten years.

With a House committee deadline recently passed to move legislation filed this Spring out of Committee and onto the full House, 697 bills proceeded through the process in the House this year. 82% of those bills that were passed out of committee were proposed by Democrats while only 18% of the bills passed out of committee this Spring were proposed by Republican lawmakers. One would certainly not expect an even proportion of bills to move out of committee when Democrats have 62% of the membership in the Chamber, but this disproportionate of a share of Democrat-sponsored bills moving out of committee means that many of the voices of Illinois citizens, those who happen to be represented by Republican lawmakers, were stifled under the first year of this “new” Democrat control.

The voices within our communities, regardless of the partisan affiliation of the elected officials who represent them, should receive fair representation in our state government in Springfield. While Democrats profess this desire when it comes to ethnic minority groups, they seem to exhibit a double-standard when it comes to providing fair representation to populations of Illinoisans represented by officeholders with an R behind their name instead of a D. When we talk about how rural regions of our state feel like they get short shrift from state government, these statistics are indicative of a case of Democrats allowing equity to trump fair representation.

Northwest Illinois, as well as many other regions of our State who happen to be represented by someone with an R behind their name instead of a D, are not being given fair voice in the legislative process at play in the Illinois House. The divisions that exist between so many Illinois communities can largely be traced to arguments for fairness and can be linked to statistics like those exhibited in this analysis. Most reasonable people certainly understand there are more residents in Chicagoland than Northwest Illinois, but the disproportionality in giving our constituents less of a voice than those represented by those of the same political party as the majority is simply not fair and should be called out as such.