Tri States Public Radio Staff
Sat February 1, 2014
Changing Legislative Redistricting in Illinois
A coalition is pushing for a change it believes will have a profound effect on state government in Illinois.
“Yes for Independent Maps” wants to amend the state constitution and create a different way of drawing state legislative districts.
“It really goes to the heart of the issue of political players and bad actors being able to game the system for their benefit and the benefit of the party they represent,” said Michael Kolenc, Campaign Manager for the group.
The coalition proposes creating an 11-member independent commission to draw legislative maps. It said the commission will reflect the state’s geographic and demographic diversity. Kolenc said the commission will be required to tour the state to gather input before and after the maps are drawn.
“Yes for Independent Maps” is in the process of collecting petition signatures to put the proposed amendment on the November 2014 ballot. It must submit 300,000 signatures by May 4. Kolenc declined to say how many have been gathered so far but he said the group is on track to meet its goal, possibly by April.
Kolenc feels the current redistricting process “happens behind closed and locked doors,” resulting in gerrymandering and few choices for voters.
“Right now legislators are able to pick their voters rather than voters really being able to pick who represents them in Springfield,” Kolenc said.
He said the League of Women Voters tried to put a similar measure on the ballot in 2009 but fell short. Since then the LoWV, Common Cause, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and many other organizations and people have worked together to develop the best approach to the issue, according to Kolenc. He called it a broad-based coalition, and said its members spent more than two years writing the ballot amendment.
Even if the constitutional amendment ends up on the November 2014 ballot and is approved to voters, the new redistricting method won’t be used until after the 2020 census.
“By doing it this far out from the next redrawing, it takes the personal nature out of this,” said Kolenc.
“This is not a personal attack on any one political party or political leadership. This is simply a means to putting the voters back in charge and putting faith back in the process.”
The change would only involve the districts for state legislators. Kolenc said the congressional redistricting process in Illinois would not be impacted.