Too late to put ‘fair map’ amendment on Nov. 3 ballot — but never too late for reform

There are still ways to minimize shameless self-interest in the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts in Illinois after the 2020 U.S. Census.

SHARE Too late to put ‘fair map’ amendment on Nov. 3 ballot — but never too late for reform
The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

AP

Illinois has missed another big chance to stop politicians from drawing legislative maps that allow them to pick their own voters, but there are still ways to minimize shameless self-interest in the maps to be drawn after the 2020 U.S. Census.

Sunday was the deadline for putting a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot that would have created a more independent process for drawing legislative maps, ending the most blatant gerrymandering. Getting the measure on the ballot required a three-fifths favorable vote by both the state Senate and House, but the Legislature didn’t convene this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illinois, like other states, draws new maps every 10 years to ensure that roughly the same number of people live in each congressional, state Senate and state House district. Traditionally, this has been an opportunity for the party that holds a voting majority to redraw boundaries to favor certain candidates and punish others.

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A constitutional amendment creating an independent mapping process would have been the best way to end the nonsense. But there are several ways the Legislature still can curb the worst gerrymandering, not that we believe they will.

The best option, for which there’s little enthusiasm among Springfield Democrats — because they’re in the majority — would be to create an advisory commission of citizens that would draw new maps in a fair and constitutional way. The maps still would have to be approved by the Legislature, but the process at least would be more transparent.

A variation of that plan would be to create a commission of both citizens and elected officials, similar to a proposal Virginia voters will consider this fall.

A simple and excellent idea, suggested by State Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Lake Forest, would be to require that all proposed remaps be posted online for everybody to see and comment on. At the moment, proposed remaps are presented only at public hearings.

And, finally, let’s all hold Gov. J.B. Pritzker to his pledge not to sign off on new maps that are unfair.

The redistricting process, we should note, could become even more complicated if the coronavirus pandemic delays the Census Bureau from getting data to the states in time to draw new maps before a deadline of June 2021.

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SOURCES: Illinois State Board of Elections, news reports

It’s too late in Illinois to pass that constitutional amendment, but nothing says reformers can’t try again in a couple of years. It’s never too late to fight for making every vote count.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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