By Audrey Carpenter
A movement to redraw the legislative districts in Illinois is under way with a Chicago-based group that has been taking its cause across the state, recently stopping in Rockford to explain its purpose.
“Yes for Independent Maps” is the group working to place a redistricting measure on the November 2014 ballot. The group seeks to change the way district boundaries are drawn. Currently, boundaries are drawn by the state legislature, with the majority political party having an advantage. This is broadly seen as a corrupt way to maintain control of the electoral process.
The amendment would create an independent redistricting commission composed of citizens, rather than politicians, who reflect the state’s geography and demographic diversity. The commission would draw state House and Senate maps in a process that is transparent and open to public comment.
Under the new system, maps would be drawn with respect for the geographic integrity of cities and neighborhoods. The maps would hold politicians accountable to their constituents by making elections more competitive by drawing the districts in such a way as to make it non-partisan.
Steven Hall, a social studies teacher and Rockford native for 20 years, is a volunteer with the organization. He teaches U.S. history and the Constitution, and has a vital interest in government and politics, especially in relaying principles in the classroom.
“In last year’s general election, 97 percent of state House incumbents won their general elections,” Hall said. “Two-thirds did not even face a challenger (due to the way the districts are drawn). Under this system, the voters are unable to choose who will represent them.”
He is part of a grassroots effort in Rockford to get names on the ballot. He said he has 105 signatures so far.
Yes for Independent Maps is an organization that grew out of the “CHANGE Illinois!” coalition of more than 50 groups representing 2 million residents. The groups website is www.independentmaps.org. Several organizations have publicly expressed support for the group and are noted on the website.
The amendment was written with input from voters across the state. The drafters paid close attention to the needs and desires of average citizens, as well as the counsel of legal and policy experts, and the successful redistricting reforms in California in 2008 and Florida in 2010. Both states have seen progress and fairer practices under an improved redistricting process.
The group needs 298,000 signatures to be able to place the item on next fall’s ballot. If passed, the change would not take effect, however, until 2020.
From the Nov. 20-26, 2013, issue