Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013, 6:08 pm
Group pushes to put redistricting map on 2014 ballot
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By Eric Timmons, email@example.com
MOLINE -- A campaign is underway to to take redistricting in Illinois out of the hands of politicians.
A coalition called Yes for Independent maps is working to collect 298,000 signatures to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2014.
If approved, the amendment would create an independent commission that would draw political boundaries after each census.
Supporters says the commission would help to end gerrymandering and reduce the power of incumbents.
At present, the party that's in power in Springfield after a census controls the way boundaries are drawn to create the map for Illinois House, Senate and congressional districts. This allows the dominant party to draw boundaries in ways that suit their candidates.
The constitutional amendment proposed by Yes for Independent Maps would create an 11-member commission to draw the electoral map. The amendment would not affect congressional districts or local maps.
Any Illinois citizen could apply to join the redistricting commission.
A nonpartisan applicant review panel appointed by the Auditor General would eliminate applicants with conflicts of interest, such as lobbyists or public officials.
A lottery would then be used to select commissioners to create a a group of two Democrats, two Republicans, and three unaffiliated with either party, all proportionally representing Illinois' five judicial districts.
The four top legislative leaders in Illinois would each appoint one commissioner from the remaining pool. Commission meetings and records would be open to the public.
Yes for Independent Maps director Michael Kolenc said the system is modeled on one in use now in California.
"People really believe Springfield is broken and this is a way to fix it," he said. "More competitive elections with maps drawn in a fair and transparent way will create better government."
Districts would have to contiguous and respect the geographic integrity of cities, towns, and other units of local government.
Mr. Kolenc said Yes for Independent Maps plans to run a "multimillion dollar campaign to get this on the ballot."
The coalition already has started an aggressive campaign to collect 298,000 signatures by the May 4 deadline to get the amendment on the ballot, he said.
One local supporter of the project is Coal Valley Republican precinct committeeman Dennis English who is helping collect signatures for the petition drive.
"The system we have now reduces the number of competitive elections in Illinois," Mr. English said. "Whether it's Republicans or Democrats, they shouldn't be allowed to carve out voters for themselves."
Mr. Kolenc believes the campaign has broad bipartisan support. But he said there is strong opposition to a project from those who benefit from keeping political control of redistricting.
"We fully believe that people who benefit from the status quo will fight this," Mr. Kolenc said.
State Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, said he'd like to see details of the plan for independent redistricting before he could support it.
"I don't have a problem with the way they do it now," he said.
Supporters of Yes for Independent Maps include Republican state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford and David Axelrod, a Democrat who has worked as a top adviser to President Barack Obama. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Latino Policy Forum also support the campaign.
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