A PROPOSAL FOR CHANGE
By Lucas Pauley
MONMOUTH — After three decades, many Illinois citizens are questioning the way the state's voting districts are drawn. For 30 years, the legislators of Illinois have been able to draw the district lines, but supporters for the Illinois Fair Map Amendment have suggested a system that would involve a group of non-legislators drawing the lines.
The issue affects everyone in Illinois and that is something Brad McMillan, director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Studies at Bradley University, expressed when he spoke as a guest lecturer at Monmouth College last month.“If nothing changes, politicians go into a closed room in secret and create safe Republican and Democratic districts,” McMillan said.
He also pointed out that under the current system, if legislators cannot come to an agreement on a redrawn district, then a name of one of the competing candidates is pulled out of a hat and whichever party wins gets to redraw the map.
Two local organizations have been circulating petitions in support of the Illinois Fair Map Amendment. The Warren County Republican Committee has passed around petitions and collected about 100 signatures. Warren County Republican Chairman Andrew Youngquist is one of the leaders behind the local movement. “It’s time to take the politics out of redistricting and for people to pick the politicians, not for the politicians to pick the people,” Youngquist said. With many other states moving to a system where a group of unbiased, non-legislators draw the district lines, Youngquist said Illinois can do a lot to repair its image to the rest of the United States by making a change.
“It’s just one more brick on the load. When you have a governor who is set to go on trial and a reality show, a former governor in prison, a senate seat apparently put up for sale, this is just one more opportunity to clean the stables,” Youngquist said.
The other local organization promoting the Illinois Fair Map Amendment is the Warren-Henderson Farm Bureau. Manager Carol Ricketts said they have also been circulating petitions and have some at their offices as well. “This is not a fair way for drawing the districts,” she said. “With an unbiased party, the incumbents won’t be so assured of winning.” State Rep. Rich Myers, R-Colchester, is a supporter of the Illinois Fair Map Amendment.
"I support the effort and the proposal to at least redraw the district boundaries in a method not as political," Myers said. "It's nice to see such a mix of supporters, like various league of women organizations and farm bureaus, it's very interesting."
Myers' only disappointment is that the amendment does not apply to congressional districts. While State Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, agreed reform is needed, he said the Illinois Fair Map Amendment does not address all the problems, and could possibly make things worse. Sullivan noted how the Illinois Fair Map Amendment proposes a two-thirds vote to pass their redrawn map, and that the only way this will happen is if the incumbents are safe in their own districts. "This proposal does more than the current law does to protect the incumbents," Sullivan said.
He also spoke about the 17th Congressional district and how the Illinois Fair Map Amendment does nothing to address it. "The 17th district is possibly the most gerrymandered district in the state, and maybe even the country, and the people behind the Illinois Fair Map Amendment use it as a reason for reform, but the amendment does nothing to address this, and I think that is being disengenous," Sullivan said. "People believe, and I believe, we need some sort of reform but the Fair Map Amendment does not take the politics out of the process. The amendment is touted as a bipartasism reform effort, but it is anything but that. It is a Republican drawn form."
In order to make the change, the citizens need to collect 500,000 signatures in Illinois by April 1, then the issue will go on the November ballot. If passed, the amendment applies to redistricting beginning in 2011 for the election of members of the General Assembly beginning in 2012.For more information on the citizen’s movement, visit www.ilfairmap.com.