How Macon County Republicans Took Full Control of the County Board
Voting districts are redrawn every 10 years. The Macon County Republicans propopsed a map that removes 6 of our 21 county board seats, yielding a 28% decrease in board size, while we've seen only a 6% population decrease over the last 10 years, from 110,7681 to 103,9982.
This map would "crack"3 a majority minority district into surrounding districts, likely violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act4. The Republican County Clerk5, Josh Tanner6 proposed a different map, which the Democrats support7. Due to "legal defensibility" Republicans proposed a new map that avoids "cracking" in favor of "packing"8 two inner city districts into one, which may also violate the Voting Rights Act.
Published on Oct 29, 2021
Timeline | 2021
- October 7th: Tanner's map, the Democrats map, and R1 map were made available to any county board members or members of the public present at the Operations & Personell Meeting9.
- October 12th: Herald & Review reported on the redistricting & Democrat planned protest, sharing the maps with the public7.
- October 14th
- 2pm: A new map "R2" is proposed by republicans
- 5pm: Protest held with about 3 dozen people outside the county office building10.
- 5:30pm: Each party confers in their caucuses. Republicans discuss and straw-poll vote11 to pass R2.
- 6pm: County Board meeting begins, where the Republic majority will vote in the "R2" map.
- Districts: Macon County currently has 7 voting districts. 3 County Board members are elected from each district for a total of 21 representatives. You can only vote for Board Members in your district. Many other County positions (such as County Clerk) are "at-large" meaning voters from all districts elect them.
- Caucus:12 A closed, partisan meeting. Prior to County Board Meetings, there is a 30 minute Republican Caucus & Democratic Caucus (on separate floors) for each party to discuss their agenda for the night.
- Gerrymander:13 Redrawing districts to concentrate voting power, giving one political party or group an unfair advantage in future elections.
- Operations & Personnel Committee14 (O&P): The new District Maps were presented at the O&P meeting on October 7th. O&P voted to recommend the R1 map to the full County Board (non-binding).
- R1, 2022R, Exhibit B: The map proposed by Republicans @ the O&P Meeting.
- R2, 2022R2, Exhibit E, vote G-5321-10-21 E: The map proposed by Republicans on October 14th hours before the Board meeting where it was approved.
- County Clerk Josh Tanner's Map, Exhibit A, Map supported by Democrats: Rejected by Republican Board Members
- 2022D, Exhibit C, vote G-5321-10-21 C: The map proposed by Democrats that was voted down after Tanner's map was voted down.
Known Issues with this storyI wanted to add more to this story, address all the talking points, and paint a full picture of the issues. I don't have any more time & energy to put into this story, so I'll summarize here what I wanted to change. I don't have sources compiled for these points. I'm writing these points mostly from memory as I didn't take good enough notes in the process.
- Karl Coleman asked a lot of very good questions that I failed to record.
- I do not have a vetted transcript of the audio. (a generated one is available in the file downloads, but it will have issues)
- I don't properly address the talking points about population decrease. The gist is that we had 21 board members in 1969 (probably since 1962), our population was about 118,000 in 1960, 125,00 in 1970, 134,000 in 1980, about 117,000 in 1990. ~114,000 in 2000, ~110,000 in 2010, ~104,000 in 2020. Additionally, Republican Board Members have shifted their responses on this issue in response to the 28% board size decrease / 6% population decrease criticism.
- Surrounding communities have not decreased their board sizes, as far as I'm aware.
- Democrats did NOT put forward Tanner's map for a vote. I wish I could have inquired & included responses about this.
- Lloyd Holman voted YES for the R2 map when it came to vote. I emailed him but don't have his response yet.
- Other Board Members made some important statements that I have not included
- There is a lot more detail about the legal issue here that I have not included.
- The timeline should go farther back, at least to the O&P meeting in August.
- There may be additional news stories since the Oct 14th meeting which I have not linked to.
- I have not properly addressed Linda Little's comment about this being the third time they've tried to do this redistricting
- I have not properly criticized the Democrats for failing to engage the public in this process much sooner.
- I did not report specifics of citizen remarks
- I did not look into past redistricting efforts
- I believe I am missing some of the documents which were provided to county board members for the meeting.
- I have not properly studied the precinct & population data to develop a fuller understanding of the racial impact. Coleman speaks on this during the council meeting & you can hear that in the audio.
More Information for you
Other Information & the O&P Meeting
- Coleman suggested reducing the salaries from what was currently recommended. Greenfield said he would support such a motion. Coleman began to make a motion, but I believe it was forgotten amongst commotion.
- A talking point in favor of this redistricting was due to budgetary concerns. Coleman mentioned an increase in the salaries to accompany the reduction in board size. The O&P Meeting Minutes9 indicate about a $12,000 annual savings in Board salaries. Coleman regarded the likely cost of legal fees defending this redistricting plan. At the O&P meeting, Greenfield cited the increased workload per individual representative required to fill out committees by a smaller board. Greenfield originally motioned to reduce the Chair's salary during O&P from 15,000 to 5,000.
- Michael Baggett, assistant State's Attorney15 at the O&P meeting said that O&P's job was to vote on recommendations to make to the full County Board, then the County Board's job would be to approve or decline or ammend the recommendation(s). The map proposed on October 14th prior to the board meeting was not voted as a recommendation during the O&P meeting, whereas the original "2022R" (R1 map) was voted to be recommended to the full board, with a "nay" vote from William Olliver (D, district 2).
- Public Comment during O&P Meeting: "[Karl Coleman] said they have been working with a consulting firm and a lawyer who has strong experience, both throughout the State, but also with the Voting Rights Act and they are very, very clear that the plan that we have recommended this evening violates it. It does so in two different fashions; one, it dilutes the black vote not only in the way the lines are drawn, but it reduces the influence of black voters in districts by the size of them."
- "Chairman Greenfield commented that this will be more work because there will be less members so they will have to be on more committees. So, he suggested $2,500 for board members and cut the Chair’s salary in half." from the O&P minutes. This would save $4,500 in board member salaries & an additional. The Chair's salary would be reduced to $5,000 + the standard $2,500 for board members. The total savings is about $12,000 annually
Local Reporting & Additional Reading
- Herald & Review, Oct 12: Macon County Board proposed redistricting sparks protest7 by Tony Reid16
- Herald & Review, Oct 14: Macon County Board approves amended redistricting plan, but concerns remain17 by Brendan Moore18
- WAND TV, Oct 14: Macon Co. board votes to reduce number of members with redrawn map19 by ... I'm not sure who
What can we do?
File a discrimination complaint
File a discrimination complaint with the Civil Rights Bureau of IL Attorney General's Office and the Department of Human Rights. See my file a discrimination claim page for more.
Work with Local Orgs on this issue
- The Macon County Democrats are leading efforts on this issue.
- Members of Central IL DSA have some ties with local Democrats and can likely help you get connected.
Less Direct Action
Work like hell to shift the broken power dynamics of the two-party system, in hopes of long term improvements in the democratic process.
- Elect candidates from third parties.
- Start a ballot initiative for ranked choice voting, so voting third-party actually begins to seem viable.
- Run for office & beat the Republicans in your district
- Do journalism & help inform the public about candidates running for office.
- Engage with local political orgs like the DSA, Progressives, Democrats, or start a Green Party chapter, etc.
- Canvass (even non-partisan) & get more people to vote.
- Only 12.4% of registered voters voted on April 6, 2021 for the Municipal (city council, school board, etc) elections, though it looks like over half of registered voters voted in 2020 Presidential. 2018 looks like it was closer to 35 or 40%. I don't have raw data, so I can't calculate, but you can [look at the results of past elections]((http://il.macon.accessliberty.com/pastelections.aspx)
Republican Caucus | 5:30pm, October 14th
I attended the Republican caucus to just to listen and learn. As I entered, about 5:40, they were talking about which of the maps to vote in: the original Republican map "R"/"R1" or the new Republican map proposed that day "R2".
Disclaimer: I was not recording audio, so quotes may be mildly skewed.
As they discussed these issues, there were many smirks & off-hand remarks that I failed to commit to memory or note down. A very small portion of Republican County Board Members20 seemed less excited. I regret not recording, because my words can only poorly capture what I witnessed.
Choosing the R2 Map
Jerry Stocks explained the legal nature of this situation. He said the R2 map is more "legally defensible" because it avoids "cracking", something the R1 map does.
A man (not sure who): "This will give us a 12-3 board" (suggesting a republican majority of 12 & Democratic minority of 3)
Linda Little (Board Vice Chair, District 1): "I really like R1," but she resigns to R2 for the legal defensibility.
I believe it was Gregory Mattingley (District 4) who said: "I want to vote R1 just to stick it to the Democrats"
Kevin Greenfield (Board Chair, District 7): "I want us to go out there as a united front." Asked to move to a straw man (unofficial/casual) vote.
All Republican Board Members: Raised hands in favor of R2 map
Disclaimer: I'm 95% sure it was Mattingly, but it may have been Jeffrey Entler.
Discussing Citizen Remarks
They've already decided on R2 when Kevin Greenfield suggests moving Citizen Remarks PRIOR to the vote on the district map. They have ALREADY DECIDED!
Kevin Greenfield: "I want citizens to be heard"
Kristen Larner (District 6): Wanted to keep citizen remarks AFTER the vote. One or two others made off-hand remarks to this effect.
Linda Little: Made very clear that they should NOT respond to citizen remarks. That they should NOT engage with citizens.
Brief discussion & they decided to move remarks PRIOR to the vote. In my opinion, this was just to placate us.
County Board Meeting | 6:00pm, October 14th
Board Meeting starts as usual, with a prayer and the pledge. Board Chair Greenfield announces that the "O&P" item (District Maps were drawn up by the "Operations & Personnel" committee) will be moved to the end of the meeting. It takes just a few minutes to get through everything else, then the District Map portion of the meeting starts.
Greenfield states that Citizen remarks should be kept to 5 or 6 people, and to "discuss that with your organization". Greenfield calls for remarks from citizens who SUPPORT the redistricting plans. No one speaks.
Greenfield calls for remarks from citizens who OPPOSE the redistricting plan.
The following citizens spoke:
- Jacob Hamm, a Decatur resident who will be affected by the redistricting
- Adolphis Cooper (2021 City Council candidate23)
- Michael Diggs (Vice President of the NAACP Decatur Branch24): "The NAACP does not agree with the changes that have been put forth for the district" (quote pulled from WAND TV19)
- another gentleman who's name I don't recall
- Reed Sutman (me, a Decatur resident who runs this site)
- Will Wetzel (2021 City Council candidate25)
A motion is made to adopt a new district map through a "fill in the blank" method. Democratic Party Chair Karl Coleman promptly moves to table the District Map vote. State's Attorney Scott Reuter26 calls a point of order, as the first motion needs a second. It's seconded.
Coleman resumes his motion, and makes his case for tabling, essentially: The public has not had time to review the district maps and give feedback to the Board (see the Timeline above).
Motion is seconded. This is voted down by all 12 Republicans, with a "yes" (to table) vote from all 7 Democrats. The Board has until November 17th to vote on redistricting9 according to Michael Baggett, an assistant state's Attorney15, so the Board could have voted on this at the next meeting27 on November 11th.
Coleman makes a new motion, to accept the Democrat's proposed map (not Tanner's). There is little discussion, it is seconded, and goes to vote. Same thing: 12 Republicans vote "no" & 7 Democrats vote "yes".
A motion is made to accept the R2 district map. It is seconded. Then a wealth of discussion begins, trying to figure out HOW to carry forward the vote. A member of the public remarks on the Board's lack of order & preparedness. A Board member does as well. After a minute or two, this is settled, and discussion begins. Karl Coleman has the floor and asks a series of questions, with few substantive answers given.
During discussions, one board member stated they would put forth a motion for Tanner's District Map if the R2 map was not approved.
You can download the audio or listen to the audio online. Public comments start at 9:00. Tabling vote fails around 26:00. Procedure is discussed from roughly 26:00 to 35:00. Coleman begins questioning around 38:50. Most of the remainder of the meeting is questions, mostly lack of answers, and discussion.
Coleman's Questions About the R2 District Map
- Is it true that the population has decreased by 6% since 2010 while this proposal would reduce the county board size by 28%? (Mentioned by Jacob during public remarks)
- Greenfield: "I don't know".
- Macon County's population was 110,768 in 20101 and was 103,998 in 20202, according to U.S. Census Data28. It's technically a 6.11% population decrease. (103,998 / 110,768 = .938881 or 93.89%)
- "[Greenfield] said it made more sense [to go from 21 members to 15] considering the drop in the county’s population since the last census." <- Herald & Review7
- Greenfield remarked that the population has dropped over the past 30 years. The Macon County Population in 1990 (31 years ago) was 117,206 according to Census Data29. This is an 11.3% population decrease over 30 years. (103,998 / 117,206 = 0.88731 or 88.73%)
- From 21 board members to 15 is a 28.57% decrease in board size. (15 / 21 = 0.714286 or 71.43%)
- Linda Little (R) later remarks that this is the THIRD time the Republicans have tried to put through this kind of redistricting plan. They tried in 2000 & 2010.
- Greenfield: "I don't know".
- Will there still be a majority minority district?
- No substantive answer was given
- Would this violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act? Coleman directing the question to States Attorney Scott Reuter
- Reuter claimed he's not there to give his opinion.
- Karl said he's asking a factual question about a legal matter. Karl was inquiring if this could subject them to lawsuits.
- Reuter said he could not comment on an ongoing legal case.
- Coleman pointed out there is no current legal case and that he was asking if it COULD lead to a legal case.
- No substantive answer was given.
- Will there be a majority minority district with the R2 plan?
- I remember there was some discussion between Greenfield & Tanner, but no substantive answer was given.
- Herald & Review reports after the meeting17: The new district's population will be 46% black people. "No other district would feature more than a 14% Black population, according to data from the Macon County Clerk's Office" ... "In the initial draft, the Black population of each district ranged from 15% to 22%, a dilution that likely would have resulted in a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
- Was there a study done in regard to race?
- Greenfield suggested that the R2 map addressed Karl's concerns about cracking. Karl expressed further concerns & clarified his question. A particular study was not done.
- Who drew the new R2 map?
- I don't remember the answer, but there was a bit of back-and-forth & uncertainty before Greenfield named a couple people.
Karl asked a few other questions, which were factual in nature & did not receive substantive answers. I wish I had taken better notes for details.
Another County Board member commented that he had not seen the maps until October 7th, during the Operations & Personnel meeting9.
As Coleman was asking questions, and some discussions were taking place a member of the public (Reed Sutman, the author of this article) stood up and remarked about what they heard during the Republican Caucus. When all other motions had failed and it came time to vote, and vote was being called, I stood up & called the actions unethical. Coleman gestured for me to relax & sit. I begrudgingly did so. Other members of the public were also making some remarks as the meeting went, largely in support of my disruption. I appreciate Karl's efforts to have me sit, as disrupting the meeting and getting arrested likely would not have changed anything.
Pay special attention to how the center of the map looks - that's our inner city. Tanner's map vs R1 map shows the inner city being "cracked" into multiple surrounding districts in the R1 map. Tanner's map vs R2 map shows "packing" both inner city districts into one district.
See Current Map30 for the 2010 decade. Macon County is currently separated into 7 districts with 21 representatives. The districts (roughly) are: Inner City, West End, North East of Pershing, East of 22nd St (with some inner city), South East, South West, and North.
Tanner's Map | Republican County Clerk
See Tanner's Map31. It was supported by Democrats & voted down by Republicans The districts are incredibly similar to the Current Map
R1 Map | First Republican Proposal
See R1 Map32. Desired by Republicans but not "legally defensible".
The districts are roughly: West, with some inner city. North with some inner city. East with a hair of inner city. South with some inner city. South East.
R2 Map | Proposed day of meeting & Approved
See R2 Map33. This was approved on Oct 14th & proposed at 2pm on Oct 14th). It Separates Macon County in 5 districts with 15 representatives. It was approved by all 12 Republican County Board members & 1 Democrat Lloyd Holman
The districts are roughly: North, East, South, West, and one inner-city district.
D Map | Proposed to O&P, but not recommended to board.
See 2021 Dems Map34. This was voted down on October 14th by all 12 Republican County Board Members.
See File Downloads