Editorial: Where's promised legislation to end unfair, absurd remap rules?

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted1/27/2017 9:41 AM
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  • During his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner challenged lawmakers to put a redistricting referendum on the 2018 ballot.

    During his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner challenged lawmakers to put a redistricting referendum on the 2018 ballot. Associated Press

Among key points in his State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Bruce Rauner touched a nerve that reminded us of a promise made by many suburban lawmakers on the campaign trail last fall.

Rauner told the assembled senators and representatives that the courts have effectively stated that only lawmakers can schedule a referendum to change the way the state creates its legislative districts. Lawmakers feeling the heat of the voters' desire for that change promised to introduce just such legislation this session.

How about it, ladies and gentlemen?

Here's how the dominant Democratic Party keeps its grip on Illinois: Lawmakers in the majority draw their own legislative district boundaries in a way that's designed to keep them in office.

The once-a-decade process protects incumbents, reduces contested legislative races and creates odd shapes, like the 29th Senate District, which hugs the North Shore but for a narrow tentacle that winds into Palatine.

The map created by a Democratic legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2011 set the stage for a second decade of the party's dominance.

Our state's way of drawing 118 House and 59 Senate districts isn't fair, as good-government groups, a long list of current and former elected officials and more than a half million petition signers concluded when they backed a failed citizens initiative for an independent commission to take over map-drawing duties.

The best incentive for change might be that Rauner is a Republican. State law will requires the governor to approve the legislatively drawn map.

If that won't happen because the governor's from the opposing party, a backup commission of four Democrats and four Republicans takes over. If that predictably ends in a stalemate, the Illinois Supreme Court names one Republican and one Democrat as potential tiebreakers.

And the secretary of state pulls one of their names out of a hat.

That's right. A tiebreaking name pulled out of a hat could determine which party holds the winning hand for the next decade.

Aside from being absurd, that's a gamble. We hope it's enough of a gamble to push lawmakers to pass a bipartisan, fair-map bill and put it on the ballot in November 2018, the same election when voters will choose a new governor and the last chance before the next census ushers in a new remap.

Last fall, an Illinois Supreme Court decision along party lines struck down the citizens initiative that would have put a fair map referendum on the November 2016 ballot.

Legislative action to do the same now is the only apparent option. And we mean lawmakers acting in good faith, not support for a bill that provides political cover while never having a chance of getting a vote.

Convinced? Make sure your legislator knows where you stand.

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