Put simply, redistricting determines political power. Every 10 years when U.S. Census data is released, political parties draw legislative boundaries and choose voters who are most likely to give them a political advantage on Election Day. This practice, known as gerrymandering, produces uncompetitive elections, career politicians, and governmental deadlock all because politicians have little to no reason to fear the consequences of being thrown out of office. Illinois is a leading example of the harm that gerrymandering does to our democracy. More than 60 percent of state legislative general elections in 2016 were uncontested with incumbents facing no opposition. The percent of uncompetitive elections are even higher. In 2014, we found that in about 90 percent of state house and senate races, the winner won by more than 55 percent of the vote.
The people of Illinois overwhelmingly support redistricting reform. A recent poll found that 72 percent of Illinois voters want an independent commission to draw our legislative lines. Citizens across the state understand competitive elections are critical to holding politicians accountable and ensuring they are truly in control of their government.
Need a primer on redistricting? Check out CHANGE Illinois’ presentation ‘Everything you Need to Know About Redistricting’:
Putting an end to partisan gerrymandering is a bipartisan cause that demands bipartisan support from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Check out what former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama had to say about redistricting reform:
It’s time to put an end to gerrymandering once and for all. To do that we need to amend Illinois’ constitution to create an independent commission to draw up Illinois’ maps, add measures of transparency and public accountability to the process, and protect communities of interest.
Our broad coalition has worked together to draft “The Fair Maps Amendment,” which was filed by Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) in the Illinois House and Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) in the Illinois Senate as HJRCA43 and SJRCA26, respectively.
The Fair Maps Amendment changes the redistricting process to end gerrymandering by:
- Removing politicians and sitting legislators from drawing their own districts
- Establishing an independent redistricting commission that must be demographically, politically, and geographically representative of our state to draw our Congressional and General Assembly maps
- Protecting the constitutional rights of communities of color to elect a representative of their choosing
- Adding sunlight and transparency by requiring the release of all communications made by the Commission as well as any data used to create and propose any and all maps
- Giving the public the opportunity to participate in the process by requiring at least 30 public hearings on the maps before a final vote is taken
(You can read more about the Fair Maps Amendment in our short fact sheet here).
We are working with Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of the General Assembly to cosponsor the Fair Maps Amendment to obtain passage. We’ll need three-fifths of both chambers to vote to adopt the amendment in order for the voters to have the final say at the ballot box.
Do you want to vote against gerrymandering and finally remove politics from the map-making process? Contact your state representative and state senator here to ask them to support the Fair Maps Amendment (HJRCA43/SJRCA26).
The current drive to end gerrymandering in our state began with an effort lead by the Illinois League of Women Voters in 2010 and continued with initiatives in 2014 and 2016. CHANGE Illinois recently wrote this lessons learned report to give a brief history of those efforts, with a special focus on the Independent Maps Amendment initiative in 2016 and a review of what was learned in order to guide us forward on the future of redistricting reform in Illinois.
Each redistricting effort in Illinois has been more successful than its predecessor. In 2016, the Independent Maps Amendment campaign lead an effort to place a constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission on the November 2016 ballot. Although, more than 560,000 Illinoisans signed petitions to do just that, a 4-3 Illinois Supreme Court decision, along partisan lines, ultimately put an end to that effort.
Despite this most recent setback, CHANGE Illinois, scores of other organizations, and thousands of individuals remain committed to end partisan gerrymandering in Illinois. We have been hard at work evaluating these previous efforts.
We have met with state leaders to gauge their interest in future reform efforts, convened a new redistricting collaborative with a broad, diverse group of organizations from across the political spectrum, and drafted a set of shared principles to guide our work going forward. Our goal is to enact redistricting reform prior to the 2020 census and the drawing of new legislative maps in 2021. We hope that you and all of our fellow Illinoisans will join us in this fight.