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Article posted: 9/22/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Time to end party control of map process

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By The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Of all the reform issues facing Illinois, one that gets the least amount of attention deserves perhaps the most -- how we draw the maps every 10 years that create our legislative districts.

This is a fundamental matter of republican democracy because we agree with Doug Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, who observed last week that under the current mapmaking process, "Voters do not choose their statehouse representation, but rather the elected officials and party leaders choose their voters."

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The current mapmaking process is an ugly, partisan affair of squiggly lines and strange shapes in which entrenched political majorities, sadly aided by a compromised and conflicted judiciary, preoccupy themselves every 10 years with maintaining and increasing their dominance.

This naked to-the-victor-go-the-spoils tradition is one of our republic's darkest and most cynical rituals, and, in turn, a major reason why, to our licentious politicians' great favor, the citizenry becomes almost hopelessly anesthetized by the public cynicism it begets.

But it does not have to be this way.

Many states have better models than the closed-door smoked-filled rooms of Illinois.

We wrote in May in support of the research being conducted in this area by CHANGE Illinois!, a coalition of reform groups from throughout the state.

Its studies show 77 percent of the public believes state government is tainted by corruption. The wonder is what the other 23 percent could possibly think.

The work of CHANGE Illinois! has led to the formation of another reform coalition, this one called Yes for Independent Maps, which is working to collect the 298,000 signatures needed by next May 4 to put a state constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot.

The citizens initiative would create panels of independent citizens, rather than closed-door politicians, to create the maps. The transparent process would include public hearings throughout the state. The process itself would encourage the public to get involved.

Is the proposal perfect? Probably not. But it's miles closer to perfection than our current sorry state.

This is one of the most important public policy efforts to take place in this decade, and we urge everyone within the sound of our voice and the sight of these words to get involved with it.

Check http://independentmaps.org to learn more. Volunteer to pass petitions. Donate to the campaign. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Do not just complain; do something.

Frequently, we hear politicians campaign on slogans something like, "Let's take our government back."

Well, friends, this really is the chance to do exactly that.

Today. Now. Let's rise up and take it back.

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