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Who should draw the boundaries from which we elect state legislators to the Illinois House and Senate — the politicians and lobbyists or a commission of Illinois citizens?

We believe the citizens should be the ones who control the process of redrawing boundaries. That is why the Illinois League of Women Voters, the Better Government Association and a host of government reform groups have proposed the “Fair Map Amendment,” a constitutional amendment to reform the current practice whereby powerful party leaders meet behind closed doors to determine how to draw legislative boundaries — and who will represent you in Springfield.

For the past 30 years powerful politicians of both parties have controlled the redistricting process and the results have been disastrous for Illinois. Instead of picking who you wanted to best represent you in Springfield — the politicians have been picking you.

Our proposal takes the politicians and party leaders out of the mapmaking room and puts a group of Illinois citizens in charge of the process. 

The “Fair Map Amendment” would put the map-making process into the hands of an independent commission free of elected officials, state workers and lobbyists. It would be open and transparent and would make sure minorities are represented fairly. The goal: a fair map for Illinois voters that doesn’t favor longtime incumbents or one party over another, increases voter choice and restores citizen confidence in government.

We asked both Democrats and Republicans in the Illinois Legislature to sponsor this resolution that you would be able to vote on in the November election. Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno took us up on this offer — the Democrats came up with their own proposal.

Unfortunately in their amendment, Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 121, the Democrats still think that politicians and political insiders, vested in the outcome, drawing their own legislative maps and leaving citizens out of the redistricting process is a good idea for Illinois.

In an effort to discredit the Illinois Fair Map Amendment, Senate Democrats took aim at the League of Women Voters on Monday during a hearing on the two proposals.

Who supports our plan? Nearly every major government reform group and almost all of the major newspaper editorial boards in Illinois, including this paper.

Who supports their plan? Them all alone.

You can’t call it reform if you don’t change your habits and behavior. We have seen this all too often over the last few years in Springfield.

Support the Fair Map Amendment. Let your voices be heard because if you don’t the proposal that is being rammed through the Legislature just might be worse than the system we currently have.

-- Nancy G. Marcus is president, League of Women Voters of Illinois.


Proposals for Legislative Redistricting

Current system

Criteria

1. Compact.

2. Contiguous.

3. Substantially equal population.

4. Nested.

Who draws

Legislature.

Who approves

Legislature by a majority vote, subject to approval by the governor.

Fail-safe provision

Eight-member Legislative Redistricting Commission consisting. Two chosen by each leader; one of each leader’s choices must be a sitting legislator. Tie breaker decided by picking name out of a hat.

Transparency

Silent.

Fair Map Amendment

Criteria

1. Compliance with Federal Laws, including providing substantive protection for voting rights.

2. Contiguity.

3. Substantially equal population.

4. Compact.

5. Follow geographic features and municipal boundaries.

6. Nondiscrimination against any political party or group.

7. Allows de-nesting.

Who draws

Nine-member Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission. Two chosen by each legislative leader. Ninth member, who is the chair, chosen by the other members. No member can be a lobbyist, immediate family member, public or political official, contractor or employee of the state of Illinois.

Who approves

Legislative body that map affects (by a two-thirds vote).

Fail-safe provision

Special Master chosen by two Supreme Court justices (most senior in each party). Special Master cannot be a lobbyist, immediate family member, public or political official, contractor or employee of the state of Illinois.

Transparency

Requires notice for meetings, data and documents to be made available to the public and at least eight public hearings in at least five different geographic areas.

SJRCA 121

Criteria

1. Substantially equal in population.

2. Provide racial minorities and language minorities with the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice.

3. Provide racial minorities and language minorities who constitute less than a voting-age majority of a district with an opportunity to control or substantially influence the outcome of an election.

4. Be contiguous.

5. Respect, to the extent practical, communities of interest; respect, to the extent practical, municipal boundaries.

6. Compact.

Who draws

Legislature

Who approves

Legislature by majority vote

Fail-safe provision

Senate redistricts Senate districts; House redistricts House districts (by three-fifths vote).  If no resolution is adopted by July 20, provides for a Senate or House Redistricting Commission to redistrict by Aug. 20. If that fails, provides for a Special Master. If that fails or a bill, resolution, or plan is invalidated, the General Assembly may redistrict by law.

Transparency

Requires notice of hearings, data made available to public and at least four public hearings in four distinct geographic areas; allows for the public to submit plans.

Source: Illinois Fair Map Amendment Web site, Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 121

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