Tribune Gerrymandering CartoonGerrymandering Cartoon – From March 14, 2010 Chicago Tribune. © Chicago Tribune

Radogno, Cross Endorse Redistricting Reform

After seeing the early success of a citizens’ movement to take back Illinois, Illinois Republican Leaders Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) filed identifical Constitutional Amendments that would take the power of drawing legislative maps out of politicians’ hands and place it into the hands of an independent commission.

“This resolution will also take away the ridiculous “hat provision” which has decided who draws the legislative map for the last three decades,” said Cross.  “When lawmakers and the governor can’t agree on a legislative map—we draw a name out of a hat.  We’re the only state in the nation that allows this winner take all approach.”

House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 56 and Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 104 take an initiative sponsored by the League of Women Voters and other government reform groups and put it into legislation for General Assembly passage.

“We are proposing to take the politics out of the redistricting process and let voters choose their elected representatives. This is the reform that citizens are demanding. This proposal is specifically designed to empower the voters of Illinois,” Leader Radogno said. “We know we could face strong opposition but regardless of the past we have a responsibility to seek good public policy. Redistricting reform must happen in Illinois.”

The current process allows legislative leaders to draw district boundaries behind closed doors. The constitutional amendment would require public hearings, ensure public display of proposed maps and allow public submission of proposed maps.  Since 2001, incumbents have a 98% reelection rate; passage of the amendment will encourage competition and promote diversity.    

The League of Women Voters has taken the lead in recommending the constitutional amendment, and has partnered with other reform groups, including: the Better Government Association, members of the Illinois Reform Commission, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Common Cause – Illinois, the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, Illinois Alliance for Growth, Independent Voters of Illinois and United Power for Action and Justice.

“We are thrilled that legislative leaders are proposing this constitutional amendment with our language in it—and we are hopeful that lawmakers will do the right thing and pass it through the General Assembly,” said Jan Czarnik, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters. 

“There are other proposals out there, but we believe only one that empowers an independent authority is true reform,” said Deputy Senate Republican Leader Dale Righter.  “Any proposal that continues to have lawmakers draw their own districts is not reform.”



 

 

Gerrymandering in Illinois

“Behind closed doors, political operatives scrutinize the voting history of constituents to draw boundaries intended to protect incumbents or draw “safe” districts for either the Democratic or Republican parties” – Illinois Reform Commission 100-Day Report , April 29, 2009.

 

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Illinois’ long history of questionable election practices has become ingrained in American folklore. The state is known for phrases such as “vote early and vote often,” “graveyard precincts” and “ghost voting.”  Following the 1960 presidential election, the Chicago Tribune concluded “once an election has been stolen in Cook County, it stays stolen.”

But, elections can be rigged without violating any laws. In fact, the most common method is embedded in the Illinois Constitution. That is the partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts.

The Illinois Reform Commission, appointed by Governor Pat Quinn, had harsh words for Illinois’ system of drawing legislative districts, declaring that it “deprives Illinois voters of fair representation,” that it places Illinois voters in direct conflict with legislators, and “regardless of which party wins, the people of Illinois are the losers…”

Even the framers of the 1970 Illinois Constitution have acknowledged that the system they devised has failed.

Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 104 and House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 56 take an initiative sponsored by the League of Women Voters and other government reform groups and puts it into legislation for General Assembly passage. The goal is reform the system and end the partisan gerrymandering of Illinois.

Illinois has a rare opportunity to end this legalized form of election fraud. But it will only happen if the public insists.

An Oct. 2009 survey by the Paul SImon Public Policy Institute shows strong public support for major political and ethical reforms in Illinois, including gerrymandering reform.

More than 71% of respondents disapprove of the current Illinois system for drawing legislative districts, with nearly 28% expressing strong disapproval. Turning the process over to a neutral party had the support of nearly 73% of respondents

The term "Gerrymander" was first used in the Boston Gazette of March 26, 1812 to describe a district that the newspaper likened to the shape of a salamander. Gerrymandering comes from combining salamander and the name of Elbridge Gerry, the governor of Massachusetts from 1810 to 1812, who signed into law a redistricting plan that was designed to benefit his political party. Read More

Illogical...dysfunctional...legalized protection racket.

Those are just some of the terms used by editorial writers from across Illinois in demanding gerrmandering reform. Read More.