Leading the Way in Redistricting Reform

by Brad McMillan
Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University

An effort to make state government more transparent, fair, honest and accountable...

Yes for Independent Maps is a nonpartisan grassroots campaign to put an Illinois constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot that will take redistricting power out of the hands of politicians and return power to the people of Illinois. At the end of March, the campaign announced it had gathered 346,759 signatures—exceeding the 298,000 needed to qualify for the ballot—and had raised more than $2.5 million.

The campaign is on track to send half a million signatures and a semi-truck load of petitions to Springfield to file with the Secretary of State the first week of May. More than 3,000 volunteer petition gatherers across the state have been the backbone of this campaign. Central Illinois is the leading the way with the highest number of petition signatures coming from Peoria, Tazewell, McLean and Champaign counties. This uprising of engaged citizens thirsting to turn Illinois in a better direction is truly inspiring.

Locally, the League of Women Voters Greater Peoria, the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and the Morton Chamber of Commerce have done a fantastic job. Some key individuals who have worked tirelessly gathering petition signatures and speaking at events include Pat Landes, Cheryl Budzinski, Fran Kepler, Terry Mathews, Glen Morton, Gary Stella, Shelley Epstein, John Sahn, Bill Mahl, Jeff Eberle, Steve Hamilton and many others. Businesses that have opened their doors for signature gathering include Apples Bakery, Haddad’s West Peoria Market, The Spotted Cow, Lindy’s Market in Washington, and Hometown Community Banks.

It’s refreshing to see this much civic engagement. In my view, the constitutional amendment to change Illinois’ seriously-flawed redistricting process is a most critical reform that can finally bring good government back to Illinois. Instead of a few powerful politicians drawing gerrymandered districts in total secret to protect incumbents (97% re-elected in 2012), the Yes for Independent Maps constitutional amendment would:

  1. Create an independent commission of 11 citizen members who would apply to the Auditor General. The commission would consist of four Democrats, four Republicans and three independents from different geographic regions of the state. The members chosen would have the relevant analytical skills, be impartial, be able to contribute to a fair redistricting process, and represent the state’s diversity. The map-drawing process would finally be taken away from the legislators.
  2. The independent commission would have to hold all meetings with full transparency and the public and media present. They would hold meetings around the state during the map-drawing process and for public feedback once the draft maps are drawn
  3. The independent commission would be guided by specific criteria that would take politics out of the process and ensure that the geographic integrity of communities and local units of government were preserved. The legislative districts would be substantially equal in population and contiguous. 
  4. The independent commission would ensure that minority voting rights were fully protected pursuant to federal law and that districts would not be drawn to dilute or diminish the ability of a minority community to elect candidates of its choice. The amendment would strengthen minority voting rights in Illinois. 

This critical reform would help make Illinois government more transparent, fair, honest and accountable. In November, Illinois voters can decide to take their power back from entrenched politicians who have held the Land of Lincoln back for far too long. iBi


Source URL: https://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2014/may/leading-way-redistricting-reform