A statewide effort has started to change how Illinois state Senate and Representative districts are drawn.
Right now, the maps are redrawn every 10 years to make sure each legislator represents roughly the same amount of people, are drawn by a single party. Invariably, one party accuses the other of gerrymandering, drawing the lines to favor one party over another.
The problem politically drawn district maps create goes beyond one party getting to send more legislators to Springfield. When the maps are drawn to maximize party affiliation, incumbent legislators encounter few if any challengers from the other party. The trick to get re-elected becomes appealing the fringe part of one's own party because challenges are mostly likely to occur during the primary, when usually only the party's most faithful vote. The other voters, in the general election, don't get a choice. That is a recipe for gridlock. Co-operation and compromise in such a system is how officials get voted out of office.
There are other problems associated with gerrymandering. The problems, concerns and values of citizens of the minority political group tend to be discounted. Incumbents are sometimes less accountable to the voters because their re-election is all but guaranteed. The power of the political party, over the voter, is amplified since drawing district lines to cut a legislator out of his/her present district is always a possibility. Right now deals can be struck between politicians, behind closed doors where voters have no say. Basically, when the politicians choose the voter, it is less likely the voter is truly choosing the politician.
The proposed solution involves a constitutional amendment to change how districts are decided.
This system was put together by Yes for Independent Maps, a state-wide, non-partisan, diverse coalition of everyday people and grassroots organizations as well as business and community leaders.
The proposed district maps would be drawn to try to avoid diluting the votes of racial or language minorities or split communities that share common social and economic interests; as well as put cities and other local units in the same district when possible.
These districts would not favor a particular political party, and not taking into account where politicians reside. In addition, the process of how these maps are decided would be done in a very transparent manor, minimizing the possibility of deals being struck against the voter's wishes. The selection of the people drawing the maps would also be transparent, with an opportunity for independent voters to also participate.
Accomplishing this change would be both simple and hard. All it takes is signatures on a petition -about 500,000 of them. Yes for Independent Maps is gathering community volunteers to get this task done before the May deadline.
Area groups are meeting across the state to learn about the proposal and organize getting the task done, such as a public welcomed meeting of the League of Women Voters of the Palatine Area meeting on Thursday, Oct. 24, from 7-9 p.m. in the community room of the Palatine Police Headquarters, 595 N. Hicks Road.
You can get more information at the web site http://independentmaps.org.