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Tuesday
Sep 25th
Home Community Civil Rights Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Signs “Redistricting” Law
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Signs “Redistricting” Law PDF Print E-mail
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Communities - Civil Rights
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 19:04

 

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

Journal Group Link International)

   

C HICAGO (jGLi) – Mainstream politicians in Illinois will soon be more sensitive to the complaints of the minorities as these politicians will have the ability to determine what issues they would like to address and which minorities they are going to deal with.

 

In what minorities consider as “a milestone,” Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed Monday (March 7) the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011 at an event co-sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) at Chicago’s south side in Chinatown at the Grand Hall of the Chinese American Service League with Asian, Latino, Polish, African, Arab and Muslim leaders, elected officials and community members in attendance.

 

“Today is a very important day for immigrant communities,” according to Lawrence Benito, ICIRR Deputy Director. “Communities that have been divided into multiple districts will now be more united and thus better able to elect candidates who represent their interests.”

 

The legislation (SB 3976) sponsored by State Sen. Kwame Raoul and State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie sailed through the State Senate last November and the State House of Representatives last January.

 

Under the new law, the Illinois General Assembly will draw Congressional and state legislative districts involving racial and language minority communities under the following guidelines:

 

·        “Crossover districts,” where the minority is potentially large enough to elect the candidate of its choice with the help from voters outside the minority;

·        “Coalition districts,” where minorities could form a coalition to elect the candidate of their choice; and

·        “Influence districts,” where a minority can influence an election outcome even if its preferred candidate cannot be elected.

 

GIVE IMMIGRANTS FULLER VOICE IN GOVERNMENT

 

"We thank Governor Quinn and bill sponsors Senator Raoul and Representative Flynn Currie for working hard to pass this important legislation," said Tuyet Le, Executive Director of the Asian-American Institute, member of Asian-American Center for Advancing Justice. "It will allow immigrant and other minority communities to have a fuller voice in government."

 

For his part, CW Chan, chairperson of CBCAC, said the most recent census figures show that the Chinatown population has increased by almost 40%. Furthermore, community-organizing efforts led by CBCAC have succeeded in tripling the number of Chinese-American registered voters in this area since a decade ago. In the recent municipal elections, voter outreach efforts succeeded in significantly increasing voter turnout in five of the seven precincts where volunteers contacted voters—in some precincts by as much as 34%.

 

Yet, “Even though there are rapidly increasing numbers of Chinese voters and residents, we are so cut up that our collective voting power, along with accountability of elected officials and attention to issues, are greatly diminished.”

 

According to Theresa Mah, CBCAC Policy Consultant, the Chinatown community encompasses more than 60 contiguous precincts densely populated by 25,000 Chinese Americans in the neighborhood areas of Armour Square, Bridgeport, South Loop, McKinley Park and Brighton Park. As a result of 2001 redistricting, Chinatown was cut up into four wards, four state representative districts, three state senate districts, and three Congressional districts.

 

This fragmentation has contributed to inadequate schools and libraries, non-existent recreational facilities, limited affordable housing, and underfunded social services in the neighborhood.

Juanita Salvador-Burris, Ph.D., Research Consultant and Social Sciences Board President of Alliance of Filipino for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE), said, “Filipino Americans should continue to participate in civic life in Chicago and Illinois.”

 

Dr. Salvador-Burris said AFIRE’s go-out-and-vote (GOTV) during last month’s mayoral elections at Chicago’s Albany Park would “empower the 21,000 Fil Am population if they form a unified, cohesive voting group under the new law’s ‘crossover, coalition and influence districts,’ which redistricting hearings will examine.”



 

COMMUNITY IS THRILLED

 

"We are thrilled to welcome the Governor to Chinatown for the signing of this bill because it confirms widespread recognition of the need to change the existing legislative maps of Chinatown," said Bernie Wong, President of the Chinese American Service League (CASL). "We have been working from the beginning to champion this legislation that will allow us to elect candidates that represent our community's interests."

 

Other speakers at the event emceed by Governor Quinn were Ms. Bernie Wong, Mr. CW Chan, Mr. Alie Kabba, board president of ICIRR, Mr. Raul Raymundo, CEO, The Resurrection Project and Senator Raoul.

 

In a statement, State Senator Raoul said, “I humbly celebrate this landmark legislation which establishes the first changes to the Illinois redistricting process since the 1970 Constitutional Convention and first voting rights act in Illinois history.”

 

“NOBODY’S FREE UNTIL EVERYONE IS FREE

 

S enator Raoul added the new law comes after activist Fannie Lou Hamer said “nobody’s free until everyone is free. She spoke of an inclusive spirit, which ultimately states that democracy doesn’t work until everyone is able to participate and is represented.”

 

When asked by this report at a news conference if other Asian Americans, like Filipino Americans and Indian Americans, could be considered for redistricting, Gov. Quinn said, “The procedure of redistricting is always emotional and controversial. It should be done fairly and openly.”

 

For her part, Filipino American Attorney Aurora Abella-Austriaco, who ran but lost as state representative for the 65th district in Illinois in 2008, said, “This is a special day. A big chunk of Asian population should put us in the right start.”

 

Another Filipino American, Dennis Mondero, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of the Chicago Transit Authority, said, “This is historic. It is exciting and great to see that this legislation helps preserve the rights of a lot of minority groups.”





The adoption of the Voting Rights Act of Illinois followed the court ruling on the redistricting plan by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1980’s that was challenged by the black community when the plan created seven new districts where blacks would not be able to elect representatives of their choosing.

 

In upholding the District Court, the U.S. Supreme Court by a unanimous vote penned by Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. ruled that the “minority group members constitute a politically cohesive unit” and the “whites vote sufficiently as a bloc usually to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate” in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This damaged the ability of black citizens “to participate equally in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice.” # # #

  

Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 



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