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Rock Island County board officially downsizes to 19 districts

Rock Island County board officially downsizes to 19 districts

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Rock Island County board members on Tuesday approved newly drawn maps, officially downsizing from 25 to 19 districts.

It's an issue that's been debated and promised since late board member Don Johnston made the first motion to downsize the county board 10 years ago, with the 2010 Census. 

But reapportionment and new districts didn't come without argument: board members Rich Morthland, District 1; Dewayne Cremeens, District 2; Rodney Simmer, District 18; and Robert Westpfahl, District 25, opposed. The motion passed 17-4.

"The way this map is presented, there's no way it's fair to the rural areas," Westpfahl said. "These are supposed to be fair-and-just maps, and they're not fair. We'll be stuck with this map for the next 10 years. It's got to be fair, and it ain't fair. Therefore, I will not support it."

Rock Island County board members Robert Westpfahl and Rodney Simmer disagreed with the proposed districts during the Nov. 16 board meeting. The board voted 17-4 to approve the new maps. 

Simmer referred to a letter the Farm Bureau sent to board members that took issue with the lack of rural representation.

"Is there a statute that requires numbers to be as identical as possible?" Simmer said. "It almost looks like those Little League maps; you go to this block to get this kid and this block ... you know, mine (district) really is crazy. I don't care as far as myself, but the representation of the next person may not be as fluid between the city and rural area."

Board members voted in April to reapportion the districts and in May approved a contract with Berteau Consulting LLC and Grapple LLC at a cost of $23,000 to redraw the districts.

Consultant Josina Morita of Grapple LLC said emphasis was placed on maintaining minority and rural representation during the reapportionment, with each district gaining about 1,713 people, going from an average of 5,902 residents to 7,556.

Morita said there were requests to maintain municipal and township boundaries. 

"It was an explicit goal to draw three rural districts, and that is what we tried to do," Morita said.

"I thought my (district) was way out of sorts," Simmer said. "It looks crazy how it goes out and around; it looks obnoxious."

The proposed boundaries show Morthland, of District 1, drawn into a new district with Cremeens, of District 2; Carla Enburg, of District 7, merged into District 9 with Jeff Deppe; and Drew Clevenger, of District 24, and Westpfahl, of District 25, drawn into a district together.

Kai Swanson said whoever was elected to represent each new district would have to expand their representation. 

"I think we have to accept the fact that no one is going to get the map they 100% want, and that's OK," Swanson said. "So I speak in favor of the motion."

Luis Moreno thanked the consultants for their work in putting the new maps together. 

"I do not see any gerrymandering," Moreno said. "I see a company that tried to do their best and did it based on what their parameters are."

"I think we did a great job of protecting the interests of our Black districts, our Latino districts and our fire districts," Deppe said. 

The final map must be submitted to County Clerk Karen Kinney by the end of December. 

The new districts will take effect with the November 2022 election, with all board members having to run for reelection at that time. If there is more than one party candidate per district, the primary election will take place June 28.


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