Backers mapping out plan for redistricting amendment

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The gridlock in Washington is focusing attention on the problems of gerrymandering, in which politicians draw the lines of voting districts to benefit their own parties and their own careers. The result can be lawmakers whose seats are so safe they are essentially insulated from popular opinion.

Gerrymandering occurs on the state as well as federal level. In Illinois, though, a petition drive is underway to place a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot that would stop politicians from drawing the borders of legislative districts to suit themselves. It’s being run by a newcoalition called Yes! for Independent Maps, which wants to put the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendmenton the November 2014 ballot. The amendment wouldcreate an 11-member commission to draw the boundaries of legislative districts.

The deadline for collecting 298,000 signatures is 212 days away: May 4. And to be sure of surviving petition challenges, the coalition needs more like 500,000 signatures. That’s a tall order. In 2010, a similar effort called fell far short.

But organizers sound confident. Yes! for Independent Maps has circulated 5,000 to 6,000 petition sheets and has distributed several thousand more to allied organizations to give to their members. It’s adding groups to its coalition network and building up its fund-raising efforts, although a Tuesday report in the Champaign News-Gazette said much of the fund-raising seems to be based on residents of Lake Forest.

In last November’s general election, in two-thirds of the state legislative races, there wasn’t a single challenger, which gives you a pretty good idea of how one-sided Illinois races are under the current gerrymandered map.

The redistricting commission’s criteria in drawing legislative maps would be: contiguous areas substantially equal in population; not diluting votes of racial or language minorities; putting cities and other local units in the same district when possible; not splitting up “communities sharing common social and economic interests”; not favoring a particular political party, and not taking into account where politicians reside.

Among the groups supporting the effort are Business and Professional People for the Public InterestCHANGE Illinois!Common Cause Illinois; the League of Women Voters of Illinois; the Illinois Chamber of Commerce; Metropolis Strategies; and Openlands.

Read a July 15 Sun-Times editorial on the redistricting amendment here.

Read a Sept. 29 Peoria Journal Star story here.

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