County Redistricting Commission Approves Map Design

April 14, 2011

A panel appointed by the Champaign County Board last fall has met its deadline to approve a new map consisting of 11 board districts for the 2012 elections, but the design could be rejected next month.

The county's Redistricting Commission reviewed six designs. It was allowed to forward multiple maps, but only the one known as '1-E' was approved on a seven-to-four vote. Backers say it maintains communities of interest, setting aside a 'majority minority district', or 60-percent African-American and Hispanic residents. But opponents say '1-E' lacks compact and contiguous districts, especially north and west of Champaign, where District 5 would take up much of the area.

An attempt by commission member and County Board Democrat Michael Richards to submit his own map was defeated eight to three. That was after Commission Chair and former Republican State Senator Rick Winkel suggested the incumbent had an ulterior motive on the independent panel.

"It's not your fault, Mr. Richards," he said. "But you are an incumbent member of the county board and a member of a political partisan caucus, and you are shifting lines here. It is reasonable for a member of the public to infer that you may have considered whether voters in a newly drawn district will re-elect you."

County Board Democrat and commission member Alan Kurtz took exception to Winkel's comment, calling it "the most partisan statement I've heard to date on this commission."

Richards said the approved "1-E" design will need some tweaking, but isn't sure how the county board will vote.

"It seems like everybody pretty much has the same idea about who should be in the same district," he said. "But I think, especially on things like the compactness of the maps, some of the others were okay. But I think that they require more from the commission if we're going to put them through. But again, I can't say what a majority of the county board is going to feel on the maps."

Designs 1E, 4D, and 5B were submitted by the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, and tweaked by Redistricting Commission. Two other failed maps were submitted by commission member Augustus Hallmon, and former Democratic County Board Candidate Eric Thorsland.

The board will discuss the map on April 26th, and is expected to vote on it May 3rd.

Story source: WILL