Many people in Illinois and elsewhere are not aware that the Illinois State Constitution allows citizens to initiate changes to the Constitution without lawmakers approval. The people of Illinois can only make amendments by initiative to Article IV of the State Constitution, Article IV is the article pertaining to the state legislature. The Illinois Constitution only allows amendment to make “Procedural and Structural changes,” to Article IV. Specifically the people of Illinois need to amend Article IV Section 3, section 3 deals with redistricting.
Illinois needs to adopt a system similar to Iowa’s. In Iowa the Legislative Service Agency draws the maps according to state law, and then the maps are voted on by the Legislature and then signed by the Governor. If the assembly or the governor strike down the first map, the legislative service agency will draw another set of maps. The Legislative Service Agency is only allowed to draw 3 maps after that the Iowa Supreme Court picks one of the three maps that were made. This would abolish the state assembly from gerrymandering districts, and keep them from appointing cronies to commissions to draw maps, which is what happens in many states with commissions like Washington and New Jersey.
Text of the amendment (Not exactly, I’m not a lawyer, so it may need a few tweaks, but the text of the amendment needs to hit the main points)-
“The Illinois General Assembly shall have no power over drawing maps, or forming commissions to create redistricting maps for Congress or the General Assembly. Instead the Legislative Service Agency (Or the equivalent in Illinois) shall draw a map and present it for the legislature to pass or reject both chambers by simple majority vote, then the governor shall sign or veto the maps. If the map is rejected by either legislative body or the governor the Legislative Service Agency shall draw a second map to present to the General Assembly. If the second map is rejected, a third and final map shall be drawn, if it to is rejected the Illinois Supreme Court shall choose one of the three maps to be used, and the court shall not make any modifications to the maps. The Legislative Service Agency shall make districts Compact, with no regards to incumbency, follow Federal laws regarding the creation of minority majority districts as long as federal requirements exist, maintain county, city, town, and village cohesiveness to the best of their ability, use natural barriers as boarders, major roads, rivers, and respect regional boundaries. The Legislative Service Agency may not connect populations centers with only a road. The deadline for maps to be approved shall be July 1, of the year following the United States decennial census. After passage of this amendment maps with be immediately redrawn to comply with this amendment.”
Reasons for main points:
1. Modeling redistricting law after Iowa is as fair as can possibly be.
2. In Iowa the Legislative Service Agency uses a computer program that generates the map, they don’t even gerrymander it on their own bias. Hopefully Illinois would draw their maps on computers as well that just auto generates a map according to the parameters of the amendment.
3. Specifying that Minority Majority districts will only be used as long as it is required by federal law will benefit Republicans, it will allow the Legislative Service Agency to make democratic sinks, until the US Supreme Court eventually throws out section 5 of the voting rights Act. Once Section 5 is gone we can get past race politics and just have compact districts, like they were intended to be.
4. No accounting for incumbency breaks up the power of politicians.
5. If counties are suppose to maintain integrity as best as possible, only Cook and DuPage counties would be allowed to be in more then one district, due to being populations larger then a single congressional district. Lake county would be about 9,000 residents short of being the ~712,000 residents it takes to be a congressional district in Illinois. While it will be nearly impossible to not divide some counties that are not big enough to be bigger then one congressional district, respecting their lines will be unarguably more fair. Some will probably have to be divided in some areas in order to make compact districts. Chicago is the only city in the state that would be able to be in more then one congressional district due to population size. Aurora is the 2nd biggest city in Illinois at just under 200,000 people. Maintaining regional boundaries is important to stop districts like Illinois 2, that stretches from the South side of Chicago, through Will county and all they way into Kankakee County. The Second District contains Chicago, Chicago Land, Greater Chicago Land, and beyond that, it just isn’t right to have farms and inner cities, when avoidable. I think the priority should be to maintain city lines first, then if the county, and region, if the city crosses a county line such as Barrington the county line should take precedent. Lake county for example should be entirely in one congressional district, but it is short the necessary people to be a whole congressional district. So the district should then include a few cities that straddle the Lake County line, such as Barrington or Buffalo Grove. This may seem contradictory but there will have to be some wiggle room to allow maps to be made in a very populous state, luckily Iowa doesn’t have areas like Chicago to complicate redistricting.
6. The phrase, “The Legislative Service Agency may not connect populations centers with only a road,” is to prevent The Legislative Service Agency from drawing districts like the Current Illinois 4th. which for several miles is Interstate 294, just the interstate, none of the buildings adjacent to the interstate are in the district.
7. I’m not sure if the part making Illinois redraw their maps immediately after passage of this amendment would stand due to the tight perimeters to amend the state constitution by ballot initiative. Democrats would no doubt sue to have the entire amendment thrown off the ballot, to preserve their death grip on power. But it is worth looking into to bring fair maps to Illinois quicker. If that cannot be added, oh well we will just have to wait till the 2022 elections for fair maps.
In order for this amendment to get on the ballot, petitioners must gather equal to 8% of the vote cast in the last Gubernatorial election. 8% of the 2010 vote would be about 310,000 signatures. In Illinois Legislatively referred amendments require 60% of the people to support it on the ballot for passage. I am not sure if that is true for citizen initiated amendments or not. 60% is a high number, but I think it is still very obtainable because voters like the idea of fair districts, just like voters liking the idea of term limits, Democrat, Republican, Independent and other party voters will all like the idea of fair districts. Legislatively Illinois should be close to 50-50 in both houses, with the possibility of both chambers flipping every election. The only way Illinois will be saved from bankruptcy will be to get it from being a one party state, the only way to do this is to make maps fair. I do not live in Illinois but I hope someone will take up this en devour to help their state, and hopefully this can make it to the ballot in 2014 and win.