The world has been turned upside down. We are dealing with a rapidly changing environment as Illinois lawmakers and executive branch officials in state and local governments try to contain the spread of COVID-19. These are the people trying to provide assistance to residents who are becoming ill, losing any sense of financial security, and those who already were vulnerable before the onset of the virus.
It’s times like these when we appreciate the value of the executive branch of state government. It is the governor’s office and people in the many departments he oversees who will make sure we can make it out of this pandemic. It is uplifting to have a governor who has taken the pandemic seriously. Gov. Pritzker has been with us every step of the way and has been reassuring in these uncertain times.
State lawmakers are also stepping up across the state to be a positive force in their districts and communities. State Sen. Robert Peters and state Rep. Mark Batinick, for example, put themselves at risk and helped residents by providing food to their local communities. State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch and his family are providing helpful and thoughtful advice for people to stay safe and cope with our new normal. Several lawmakers, including state Rep. Tim Butler, raised the alarm about the shortage of blood donations and made sure that they were doing their part to contribute.
It’s lawmakers like these that make me appreciate the role that state government plays in our day-to-day lives. They are positive forces in their communities and doing what leaders do, stepping up and providing people with support and resources during a critical and frightening time.
As an advocate for the Fair Maps Amendment, I have an internal struggle every day now. What can I do to make sure we come out on the other side a better state? How do I help our democracy produce leaders in every community, like Sen. Peters or Rep. Welch, to steward us through the tough times? How do I ensure that we don’t let down the people who were counting on us to make sure they have better representation?
As I try to come up with answers, my advice to all of our supporters and those who want Fair Maps in Illinois is to be respectful. If you want to tell your lawmakers that they should still pursue Fair Maps, then go for it, but also understand some of our lawmakers, staff and elected officials are on the front lines dealing with a crisis that most of us never have experienced.
We still have a right to voice our desires to lawmakers that we would like Fair Maps to be on the November 2020 ballot. We don’t want another decade of gerrymandered maps in Illinois. We want a better system.
There’s a hard constitutional deadline of May 3, 2020, to get a question before voters in November about whether they want an independent redistricting commission to draw political maps. So we have five weeks left to determine our representation for next decade. Let’s push to get past the virus and for the fair representation we need.
This op-ed was originally published by Rockford Register Star.