Under a draft congressional redistricting plan the Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature unveiled on Friday, Hyde Park would be covered by three congressional districts instead of two, as it currently is.
Illinois' 7th congressional district could cover all of East Hyde Park north of 56th Street. It would also cover parts of southern Kenwood west of Lake Park Avenue and an irregularly shaped patch of North Kenwood. Rep. Danny Davis, whose district currently covers downtown, the West Side and the western suburbs — as well as North Kenwood — has been that district’s incumbent since 1997.
Illinois' 2nd congressional district would include the 5700 and 5800 blocks of Stony Island Avenue, Jackson Park, a bit of Woodlawn, most of South Shore and the rest of the Southeast Side and much of the south suburbs, including Matteson, where Rep. Robin Kelly, in office since 2012, lives. It would also continue to include Kankakee. If the plan passes as drafted and she is reelected, she would no longer be the congresswoman for most of East Hyde Park.
Illinois’ 1st congressional district, where Rep. Bobby Rush has been the incumbent since 1993, would include the rest of Hyde Park as well as a streak of Bronzeville, where he lives, sharing that neighborhood with the 7th district. It would include western Kenwood, southern Washington Park and the park itself (the 7th has the northern half of the neighborhood), the majority of Woodlawn as well as a great many other South Side and south suburban communities.
Rush had harsh words for the draft remapping.
“The map that I’m seeing is an absolute non-starter. It’s a horrendous map that does not take into consideration cultural affinities," he said in a statement to the Herald. "It begins at a place called absurd and it ends at a place called ridiculous. The best thing about this map is that my southern boundaries are not in Iowa.”
In her own statement, Kelly was more sanguine about the redistricting.
“Change is always hard, and the map released today is not final. I expect to see more changes in the final version. However, I am pleased to see that the Pullman National Monument, the Museum of Science and Industry, the future Obama Presidential Center and the proposed site of the south suburban airport will remain in my district. I have worked on these projects and with the museum for many years and look forward to continuing my work there," she said.
"I have always felt fortunate to represent Illinois’ 2nd congressional district, which is representative of our nation itself, with urban, suburban and rural components. I hope the final map will reflect this.”
Ten out of the state's 17 districts are partly or wholly mapped into Chicagoland. The new draft maps include 17 congressional districts, down from the current 18 due to the state’s population loss recorded in the 2020 census.
The maps will be subject to legislative changes as lawmakers return to the Capitol next week for their fall veto session. The congressional maps will be one of the top agenda items as lawmakers return.
Illinois is an important state for Democrats nationally as they look to maintain control of the U.S. House in the 2022 midterm elections. Currently, Democrats have a 224-214 advantage in the chamber. The state’s primary elections are scheduled for June 28.
Historically, however, the party that occupies the White House loses congressional seats in a new president’s first midterm election, a pattern that does not bode well for Democrats.
In Illinois, Democrats currently hold a 13-5 majority in the state’s congressional delegation, and Democrats are firmly in control of the redistricting process in the state General Assembly, and appear to be doing all they can to keep as many Democratic seats as possible, perhaps as much as a 14-3 advantage.
“Call this new Illinois map the Nancy Pelosi Protection Plan,” Illinois Republican Party Chairman Don Tracy said in a statement. “It’s appalling that fair representation, keeping communities of interest together, and transparency in the mapmaking process in Illinois all had to take a back seat to the demands of national politics.”
The proposed new maps were released after the Illinois House and Senate held a series of public hearings around the state that drew surprisingly little public participation. In fact, several hearings drew no public input at all while others saw only one or two witnesses speak.
Many of the nonpartisan advocacy groups that were active during the legislative redistricting process earlier this year took no part in the congressional redistricting process, and some of them cited their frustration with the earlier process as a reason for staying away.
“I'm not surprised to see so few people at the recent redistricting hearings, given the exclusionary Illinois state redistricting process that occurred this year, which resulted in a map that harms communities of color,” Ami Gandhi, senior counsel for the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, said in an email to Capitol News Illinois.
“Even the community members who have made the effort to analyze and speak out on the maps — especially people of color — have said they don't feel heard and that their input hasn’t mattered. That’s a shame because these maps will absolutely affect our communities’ options, resources and rights for the next ten years.”
Even as Republican-controlled state legislatures have pursued partisan gerrymandering in their congressional redistricting, the Republican National Committee was quick to put out a statement
"The Illinois Democrats' proposed congressional map is a joke," said spokesperson Preya Samsundar in a statement. "National Democrats who claim to fight gerrymandering have officially lost any credibility with folks in Illinois and around the country with their silence on today's announcement."
The state legislative maps, which continues to divide Hyde Park-Kenwood into two state House districts, have already been signed into law.
Capitol News Illinois bureau chief Jerry Nowicki reported from Springfield. CNI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.