The Illinois State Board of Elections did the right thing this week when it gave more time for a citizens group to prove it had enough valid signatures to ask voters if political boundaries should be redrawn in a different way.
We have long been in favor of such a change, so we were happy to see the elections board recognized the importance of allowing the citizens group to finish its evidence collection rather than sticking to an arbitrary date.
Contact information ( * required )
That's not to say the elections panel was happy with the delay.
"They didn't start soon enough. When they did get started, they didn't really work hard enough," board Chairman Jesse Smart said Tuesday of the citizens group. "Yet they keep running back here wanting more days, more time, more time. We've been very fair with them, but they've not portrayed we've been fair to them."
Despite those comments, Smart voted in favor of allowing more time for "Yes for Independent Maps" to prove it has enough valid registered voter signatures among the 500,000 it collected to put the question on the ballot.
"We did not delay in our work," the group's attorney, Michael Dorf responded.
The group hopes to change the process of legislative redistricting every 10 years by moving it out of the political backrooms into the hands of an 11-member commission, which would operate in public. That's not a popular move for those in power, especially Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. A close ally of his is trying to get the ballot initiative thrown out in court.
We understand and agree that it's important that the elections board do its job and confirm that people who signed these petitions are registered voters. In the same vein, it's also important that the public not be disenfranchised by arbitrary rulings that could scuttle a legitimate question from making it onto the statewide ballot.
We hope the courts, along with the elections panel, will also give voters a chance to change decades of power plays by both parties as it relates to remapping. The group's website at independentmaps.org clearly makes its case:
"77 percent of Illinois voters believe corruption in Illinois government is widespread, according to the 2012 Simon Poll. ... Voter cynicism is widespread. According to the National Conference on Citizenship, only 15 percent of Illinoisans believe state government does the right thing most of time. Yet we can't hold politicians accountable because they have taken over the redistricting process."
The proposed constitutional amendment, as we said in December when we strongly supported this effort, has clearly been written to emphasize fairness and inclusion. It should get on the ballot and voters should approve it.