Some members of the Asian-American and Latino communities are taking issue with the proposed redistricting map that could be approved as early as today in the General Assembly.
Chicago’s burgeoning Chinatown neighborhood should be in one congressional district, rather than fractured into three separate federal voting districts. That’s the consensus of a coalition of Asian-American organizations that are calling on the Illinois General Assembly to “fine tune” the state’s new map of congressional districts.
But the group, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), may be up against tall odds since a vote on the political map could come as early as today. Meanwhile, a leading Latino civil rights organization spoke out against the state’s new political maps last week.
C.W. Chan, the Asian group’s chairman, said the political map -- made public last week -- flies in the face of “well over a year of hard work including discussions, advocacy, and public testimony emphasizing the need for the community to be kept intact at all levels in the redistricting process.”
Chan said the CBCAC considers this new development to be a setback in its effort to gain fair voting rights for residents of Chinatown; home to about 30,000 people -- a 50 percent increase from a decade ago, according to federal census data. That data also shows the Asian population in Illinois grew by 38.6 percent, the fastest rate among minority groups in Illinois.
The new map, like the former map, has Chinatown divided between U.S. Reps., Danny Davis (7th), Daniel Lipinski (3rd), and Luis V. Gutierrez (4th).
CBCAC is a project of eight major service organizations in the community. Their mission is to empower Chinese American communities in Greater Chicago through organizing, civic participation, education, and coalition building. CBCAC’s members are: the Asian American Institute; Chinese American Civic Council; Chinese American Service League; Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Chinese Mutual Aid Association; OCA Chicago Chapter; Pui Tak Center; and Southeast Asia Center.
Latino Community Voices Concerns Over Maps
Meanwhile, some members of the Latino community are also taking issue with the proposed redistricting map. Nina Perales, director of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), has gone so far as to say that the proposed map breaks federal law as it currently stands.
“We believe that HB 3760 does not create a sufficient number of districts for Latino electoral opportunities to comply with the Voting Rights Act," Perales told Illinois Statehouse News. Perales argues that the proposed map breaks the law by not creating enough strong Latino voting districts, which MALDEF officials say violates the law banning racial discrimination when it comes to the voting process.
The group argues that there are not enough eligible or voting-aged residents in the Hispanic districts currently outlined in the proposed maps. According to MALDEF, only six House districts and no Senate districts will have their desired 65 percent majority if the map passes in it's current state.
While the state’s population of whites and blacks decreased between the years 2000 and 2010, the number of people who identified themselves as Hispanic grew at a sharp 32.5 percent rate. Illinois had about 2 million Hispanic residents in 2010, up from 1.53 million in 2000. In all, 15.8 percent of Illinois’ residents identified themselves as Hispanic -- a category that can include whites, blacks, and other racial categories.
Two Latino Advocacy Groups at Odds
Other interesting details about the new state and federal political maps in Illinois: MALDEF finds itself pitted against the politically connected United Neighborhoods Organization (UNO) whose leaders were influential in advising House Speaker Mike Madigan in preparing the new maps.
While MALDEF contends there are not enough Latino political districts to reflect the state’s growing Hispanic population, it appears that UNO -- which has interests that go beyond Latino representation -- may want to protect those interests rather than fight for a map that reflects Hispanic population growth.
UNO turned to Victor Reyes, the arguably discredited political powerhouse who began the Hispanic Democratic Organization under former Mayor Richard Daley, to help the group sort out its best interests in a new political map. The group argues that the map is fair and considers the needs of all minority communities, instead of just focusing on those of the Hispanic population.
“We recognize and accept that Illinois’ Legislature must strike a balance with other minority groups' interest, particularly the African-American community,” Juan Rangel, chief executive officer of UNO, told Illinois Statehouse News. “We believe that the proposed map fairly balances those changes in population and the stakes other communities have in the Illinois legislature.”
It remains to be seen as to whether MALDEF, which has filed suit four times since 1980 in dispute of redistricting plans, will take legal action against the proposed maps set for a vote later today.