No one testifies at congressional redistricting hearing in Joliet

What the new districts will look like could have big implications for who controls Congress after the 2022 elections

state government, Joliet

State lawmakers held a hearing on congressional redistricting in Joliet Tuesday but no members of the public gave their take on the process.

The House Redistricting Committee held the hearing at the Plumbers Local 130 building. Only one person attended in person, though the public could also attend virtually.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, was the Republican spokesman at the hearing and argued the lack of attendance at the meeting was likely due in part to confusion over the listed address of where the hearing was held.

“We’re making it very difficult for the public to participate in these hearings if we’re sending them down a dead end road,” he said.

Hearings on the redistricting process have drawn little public interest. Only one person testified at a hearing last week in Chicago.

The state legislature is in charge of redrawing the borders of the congressional districts every 10 years after the U.S. Census count. Lawmakers have already approved new state legislative maps over the objection of Republicans and other groups. Since state Democrats have majorities in the Illinois General Assembly, they have controlled the redistricting process.

Butler said Democrats have yet to present a new map.

What the new congressional map in Illinois looks like could have significant implications for the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections.

In recent national political history, the party that lost the presidency tends to perform well in the following midterm elections, so political observers are expecting Republicans to potentially win back control of Congress.

Still, the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman has said Illinois’ potential new districts could help Democrats retain their slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the 2020 election, Illinois voters elected 13 Democrats and five Republicans to represent them in the U.S. House. Due to the state’s loss of about 18,000 residents over the past decade, Illinois will lose one congressional seat.

Will County is represented by six members of Congress: Democrats Bill Foster, Marie Newman, Lauren Underwood, Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly and Republican Adam Kinzinger.

Many political observers have speculated that of all the Illinois Republicans in Congress, Kinzinger, R-Channahon, could be most at risk of being drawn out of a safe Republican-leaning district. While he easily won reelection last year by nearly 30 percentage points, state lawmakers could draw a new district that favors a Democratic candidate.

That outcome also assumes Kinzinger survives a primary challenge after his stance against former President Donald Trump’s false assertion of voter fraud angered many GOP voters.

Democrats in Springfield would also want to preserve safe districts for other members representing the more liberal suburbs, especially after two Republicans were ousted in the 2018 midterms.

For example, Underwood, D-Naperville, narrowly won reelection last year. Her district spans from McHenry County in the north, down to Kendall County and the northwest part of Will County.

The committee will hold more hearings in Waukegan on Wednesday, in Springfield and Peoria on Thursday, and Edwardsville on Friday.

The Illinois House does have its fall session starting later this month when Butler said the chamber will likely vote on a new congressional map.

To learn more about the process, visit ILHouseDems.com/redistricting.

Anyone who wants to comment on the process can email RedistrictingCommittee@hds.ilga.gov.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.