The Illinois elections proved one thing: The voters do not choose their representatives. Instead, the district boundary lines drawn by political party leaders determine whether a Democrat or a Republican will be elected in almost every district.
Illinois just went through a redistricting process intended to balance each district with equal numbers of Illinoisans. When the governor and a majority of the General Assembly are from the same party, they control redistricting. As a result, legislative districts were drawn intentionally to maximize Democratic Party victories. If Republicans had been in control, the maps would have been biased toward that party. Because of partisan redistricting, many voters often have no choice at the polls. In districts drawn to be truly lopsided, the minority party often doesn't even field a candidate. In the recent campaigns for the Illinois House and Senate, nearly 56 percent of the members elected did not have an opponent in the general election.
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It is time to give the power back to the people and to take redistricting out of the hands of the legislative leaders. We need to reform the current system where too many state legislators owe their allegiance to legislative leaders who draw the maps. Instead, an independent commission should draw Illinois legislative districts.
Making this change will require an army of citizens to pass petitions calling for a constitutional amendment, which would be a referendum question on the 2014 ballot. The CHANGE Illinois coalition of community, civic, nonprofit and professional organizations has found considerable support and enthusiasm for such an effort. If we can change redistricting in Illinois, we can begin to restore real representative democracy, take disproportionate power away from legislative leaders and give Illinoisans the ability, and right to choose their representatives. After all, that's the way a democracy should work.
George A. Ranney, chair
Peter Bensinger, vice chair
Deborah Harrington, vice chair