The recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court leaving redistricting to state legislatures shows that now is the time for the Illinois General Assembly to vote on Senate Joint Resolution-Constitutional Amendment 4 (SJRCA 4). This bipartisan measure, which has 37 sponsors (enough to pass the measure), would give the people of Illinois the opportunity to amend our Illinois Constitution and create a new, non-partisan system for drawing maps.
Every 10 years, following the decennial U.S. Census, Illinois’ Congressional and General Assembly maps are redrawn. Illinois, like 37 other state legislatures, currently has a winner-take-all system for the redistricting process, where the politicians who are in control right now have the power to draw the maps for the next 10 years. This gives them the ability to shift legislative district lines to create an advantage for the members of their party, which is often referred to as “gerrymandering.”
Gerrymandering creates strangely-shaped districts and uncompetitive elections, while at the same time shutting out the opposing party. Under our current map created by Illinois Democrats in 2011, Democrats won 60% of the House seats and 68% of the Senate seats in 2012 with only 52% of the vote in the House elections and 54% of the vote in Senate elections.
Partisan-controlled redistricting isn’t about the people, it’s about Illinois Democrats preserving and expanding power. States such as Missouri, Iowa and Ohio have moved away from partisan map-making and are now utilizing independent commissions. Illinois should do likewise.
I believe the residents of our great state should be the ones choosing their representatives, it shouldn’t be the other way around. And the people agree. A survey by Paul Simon Public Policy Institute shows that 72 percent of Illinoisans support a constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission.
SJRCA 4 would place the question of fair maps on the ballot for the next statewide election and if approved would establish an independent redistricting commission, increase transparency in the process and provide for public hearings to allow Illinois residents to weigh in. Unfortunately, this important measure has not been called for a vote in the Illinois Senate. The time to act is now.
For too long, the people of Illinois haven’t had a voice in this process – it’s time to change that. By advancing this legislation and getting this resolution on the ballot, we’re putting the power to bring about change in the hands of the voters where it belongs.