Peoria community leaders call for fair and equitable redistricting process, community investment

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria residents and community leaders are making their voices heard to the Illinois House Redistricting Committee.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census is used to determine political and geographic boundaries, a process known as “redistricting.” As it stands now, Illinois has 118 State House Districts and 59 State Senate Districts.

The Illinois House Redistricting Committee has scheduled 23 similar hearings through April 17 to get input from community members before drawing new lines for the next decade.

“Redistricting must be fair, equitable for all of Peoria’s neighborhoods and all of the citizens of this state,” said Laraine Bryson, president of the Tri-County Urban League in Peoria, an organization that serves low-income community members with a variety of programs like child care and counseling.

Bryson said more than 44% of residents in the 61605 zip code area live below the poverty line.

“61605 is the most distressed zip code not only in Peoria but in the nation… it’s critical that the needs of those residing in this area have a voice,” she said.

Sherry Cannon, who has lived in Peoria for 50 years, highlighted the disparities between White and Black residents. She said 34.5% of Black residents are below the poverty line, compared with 9.3% of Whites.

“The Peoria area was listed as the sixth-highest level segregation measures between Black and White people in any metro area in the whole country. We’ve got a lot of problems in Peoria, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Cannon said.

Rev. Marvin Hightower, president of NAACP Peoria, said the city was once ranked the worst place for Black people to live. He said there needs be more investments, especially in the most distressed areas.

“There has been little to no investment in the South Side for over 30 years, which has caused blight and vacant lots which generate no tax revenue,” said Hightower.

“Legislative representation matters, minority representation matters, judicial representation matters, all citizens must have a voice, someone to advocate for them, representatives who understand their plight,” said Bryson.

On March 31, Illinois Senate and House Republicans introduced the People’s Independent Maps Act where an independent commission would create the new maps, rather than legislators. The Maps Act would appoint 16 citizen commissioners and would only apply to the 2021 redistricting cycle.

The deadline for the new maps to be drawn is June 30.

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