Redistricting is a complex exercise that occurs every 10 years to ensure fair representation by elected officials at every level of government. As a former member of the Illinois House of Representatives and current board member of CHANGE Illinois, I have had an extensive education on this process and believe strongly that redistricting reform must be a priority for open and fair government.
The current process of drawing maps behind closed door, with limited input from citizens and community organizations, keeps politicians in control of what wards and districts look like. Letting politicians choose their voters as their best chance to retain their position and/or keep their political party in power undermines the power and voices of voters.
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Our opportunity to reform the redistricting process at the state level failed in spite of decades-long efforts to establish an independent redistricting commission with overwhelming support from the public and the media. But all is not lost for Chicago.
As alderpersons are currently in the process of redrawing the city’s wards, they have the benefit of the efforts by the independent Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission that produced The People’s Map after more than 500 testimonies by people from across Chicago in more than 40 open and public meetings, hearings and training sessions on nights and weekends when more of us could participate.
Commissioners listened and made it a priority to keep communities whole and wards compact as much as possible. Their interest was not politics but quality representation that voters are deserving of and entitled to.
Voters need not completely understand the complexities of census data, legalities of voting laws nor policies of fair redistricting to know that being kept out of the process is not in their best interest. Your voice was heard in developing The People’s Map, and the alderpersons must hear your voice now to support The People’s Map. It is a fair map that empowers communities to not only choose their leaders but to set the direction of their future.
Please make your voice heard and hold your alderperson and the entire City Council accountable to make the next ward map equitable and representative for all of us.
Kathy Ryg, former state representative
To be against voting rights legislation is to be against democracy
A song titled “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire in 1965 contains the line, ”A handful of senators can’t pass legislation.” What a fitting lament to describe today’s senators who are against passing voting rights legislation. That song was originally banned from AM radio because it was too real, too hurtful, too scary. The idea that 50 Republican senators (and maybe a few Democrats) do not want to standardize easier voting procedures is also hurtful and scary.
The 2020 presidential election had almost 25 million more voters than in 2016 despite (or because of) a pandemic. That pandemic made it easier to vote in many states. It did not lead to fraud despite what over 70% of Trump voters continue to say. What the Democrats are asking for is not a power grab. It is legislation with reasonable standards for all 50 states. To be against that is to be against democracy.
And it need not take a change in filibuster rules to pass. Changes in national standards will cost some money. This could be a budget item that is subject to the rules of reconciliation, which means a 50% plus 1 vote.
Jan Goldberg, Riverside
Nonprofits that bring about change
Pastor Corey Brooks is spending 100 days on a rooftop to galvanize the business community to invest in projects that provide opportunities for jobs, training and education. He seems to be succeeding in getting some businesses on board, according to his recent op-ed.
Very often there are articles in the Sun-Times about nonprofits working in Chicago to reduce violence in various ways, with non-punitive interventions that strengthen and enrich a community. Typically, the organizations report a measure of success, but of course the efforts are limited in scope, as they are limited in resources.
Also, with great regularity, I see the articles about how elected leaders and the appointed heads of law enforcement intend to deal with violence and crime: more police, more arrests, more incarceration. Crime and violence go down when a community receives an abundance of public services, educational opportunities, job training, and access to meaningful and rewarding employment.
Elected officials always give lip service to the idea of someday carrying out plans to provide these where they are needed, but it always seems to be up to nonprofits and individuals like Pastor Brooks to actually make an effort to do the work to bring about change. Officially, the short-term solution, which always ends up being the long-term solution, is more police.
Rebecca Wolfram, Lawndale