If you looked at a map of Illinois’ legislative districts, you’d wonder, “How the heck did they come up with that?” The districts look more like a Rorschach test — a bunch of ink blots — than a system of deciding who represents whom. That’s because drawing those maps is done in the interests of the political parties and not in the interests of the public. You can help change that.
If you looked at a map of Illinois’ legislative districts, you’d wonder, “How the heck did they come up with that?”
The districts look more like a Rorschach test — a bunch of ink blots — than a system of deciding who represents whom. That’s because drawing those maps is done in the interests of the political parties and not in the interests of the public.
You can help change that.
The League of Women Voters of Illinois is championing the Fair Map Amendment, a measure that would change Illinois’ redistricting process. The effort is supported by the Better Government Association, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Farm Bureau and other good-government groups.
The Illinois Constitution requires that once every decade, after the decennial census, legislators get together to draw political boundaries that affect House, Senate and congressional districts. Of course, it’s a backroom deal closed to the public.
If the legislators can’t agree on a map, which they haven’t the last three times, an eight-member commission with four Republicans and four Democrats is formed. If commission members can’t agree, and again they haven’t the last three times, then a ninth commission member is picked out of a hat. The winners then get to draw a map that favors their party, a map that puts the voters they want into their districts.
To think that the democratic system in our state boils down to a name being picked out of a hat. It’s beyond disturbing.
Another troubling byproduct of the redistricting process is that 98 percent of incumbents get re-elected. Many are not even challenged.
The Fair Map Amendment would create an independent nine-member commission that would draw a map with sensible boundaries that would disregard voting histories in existing districts. The commission’s map would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote in either chamber of the General Assembly. If lawmakers vote no, the commission goes back to work and creates another map. If that fails, the commission will have the authority to approve one of the maps it submitted.
It’s a fairer process that will make incumbents vulnerable in the next election and therefore more accountable to voters.
Getting there won’t be easy. Amending the Illinois Constitution is a tricky business. To get the measure on the ballot, 280,000 legal signatures must be collected on the petitions that the league and the other groups are circulating. Those must be registered voters and they must sign the correct petition. The league knows the rules and signing a petition handled by a league member probably is the best way to make sure your voice counts.
Challenges to signatures will be inevitable, so the goal is to collect at least 500,000 so it can be put on the November ballot.
Lawmakers aren’t going to give up power without a fight. There are proposals in the General Assembly that revise the way political maps are drawn. However, we don’t trust anything they might come up with. We think the Fair Map Amendment is the best chance for political reform in Illinois.
Rockford Register Star