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Senate’s proposed map garners praise, derision

The city of Crystal Lake could be carved up among three Illinois Senate districts if a redistricting map released Thursday becomes political reality.

The tentative map, released Thursday by the Democratic-controlled Senate, would put all of McHenry County except for Grafton and Algonquin townships in the 32nd District now represented by Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry. Althoff would keep a sliver of both townships and pick up northwestern Lake County.

It puts Grafton and the western third of Algonquin Township into the 33rd District, relocated from northern Cook County, and puts the rest of Algonquin Township into the 26th District now represented by Sen. Dan Duffy, R-Lake Barrington.

If the map or something similar becomes law, Lake in the Hills and Algonquin village would be split between the 26th and the relocated 33rd District.

The General Assembly must redraw the boundaries of its 59 Senate and 118 House districts after each U.S. Census to ensure that they represent roughly the same number of people after a decade of population growth and shifting. And, of course, the majority party takes advantage of the opportunity to help secure a majority for the next 10 years.

The committee in charge of redistricting the House, also dominated by a Democratic majority, is expected to release its proposed maps today, which likely will be similar to the Senate proposal. Both maps must be meshed so that boundaries match and there are two House districts in each Senate district.

Althoff said the tentative map would benefit her politically, with the added bonus of picking up the remainder of her hometown of McHenry, part of which now is in Duffy’s district. But she said that losing Grafton and Algonquin townships and their communities would be hard for her.

“My first reaction is the loss of constituents you have been extraordinary familiar with for the past 10 years, from helping Huntley with a full Interstate 90 interchange to working with Algonquin to get the Western Bypass,” Althoff said. “At first blush, it seems to me to be a fair and equitable distribution within the constitutional mandates.”

But Duffy, a member of the Illinois Senate Redistricting Committee, begs to differ. He said it was too soon to comment on his boundaries, given that the maps likely would change, but he called the process “a huge farce.” While he participated in the public hearings to gather input, he and other Republicans were locked out of the mapping process.

“This whole process has been done behind closed doors,” Duffy said. “I don’t think this has been a fair and transparent process whatsoever.”

Democrats are taking advantage of the fact that they control both houses and the governor’s office during the redistricting process for the first time in 40 years. They therefore can get their map implemented without any Republican votes – in the past three redistrictings, both parties reached an impasse settled by the secretary of state drawing from a hat to see which party’s map would become law.

With two House districts in each Senate district, the heavily populated southeast corner of the county could end up with anywhere between three and six representatives. Rep. Mike Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, would be in the new 33rd District under the new map, rather than Althoff’s district.

Tryon, who said he would be the only incumbent in the district, said that he would seriously consider running for its Senate seat, which is held by Democrat Dan Kotowski of Mount Prospect. All House and Senate seats will be up for election in 2012 because of redistricting.

But Tryon and Althoff were split on whether having so many McHenry County districts would be a help or a hindrance. To Tryon, having Crystal Lake on the fringe of districts would mean less representation because elected officials would cater more to where the majority of their voters lived.

Althoff had a more positive outlook.

“I’m going to be my typical Pollyanna self and say that having three senators representing you is not a bad thing,” Althoff said. “More voices saying the same thing, advocacy from three senators instead of just one, and with upwards of four or five [House] representatives.”

The General Assembly also is in the process of redrawing congressional boundaries with the 2010 Census data. Illinois lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, the fourth consecutive census in which it lost representation.

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