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Chicago, United States

Chicago: Redrawing voting districts to favour minorities

March 9, 2011

Voting legislation that responds to demographic change

On March 7, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011. The Act focuses on how Congressional and state legislative districts are drawn with emphasis on racial and language minority communities. It was approved by the State Senate (53-4) as well as the House of Representatives.

“Communities that have been divided into multiple districts will now be more united and thus better able to elect candidates who represent their interests,” says Lawrence Benito, Deputy Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).

The ICIRR says the Act recognizes how three types of districts that may be redrawn:

  • “Crossover districts” where the minority is potentially large enough to elect the candidate of its choice with 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.

Chicago’s Chinatown is one community that will benefit from the changes.The most recent census figures show that its population has increased by almost 40%. Currently, the community is split into three state senate and Congressional districts as well as four ward and state representative districts.

“Even though there are rapidly increasing numbers of Chinese voters and residents,” says CW Chan, Chair of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), “we are so cut up that our collective voting power, along with accountability of elected officials and attention to issues, are greatly diminished.”

Recognizing immigrant contribution

For Maria Pesqueira, ICIRR Board Vice president and Executive Director of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, the new legislation “shows that our elected officials value the contributions of immigrants and the need to support growing communities that are becoming more important to the political process and direction of our state.”

Source: Governor Quinn Signs Landmark Voting Rights Bill, The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

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