One of the many things the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored is leadership truly does matter.
We’ve witnessed tremendous leadership by Gov. JB Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and scores of other elected officials. We ought to take a moment to express our gratitude.
Their work, and the long hours and work of their staff, and of the staff of local and state employees all over Illinois will save lives and protect millions of us. It will give us the opportunity to live freely again.
This crisis also has underscored that voting is critically important, as is having strong choices when we vote. Choosing those who will lead and represent us is absolutely essential.
We saw it after 9/11 and we see it again now.
Nothing is more urgent than getting as many of us as possible safely to the other side of this pandemic. Once we get there, there will be a tough cleanup for our elected officials with budgets to repair and businesses and communities in need of shoring up.
When that is in hand, we also must commit to ensuring we can have the kind of elections we need so we can have the best representation and leadership possible.
We need to make sure we have a full, accurate and complete Census for all of Illinois. The pandemic is making that a greater challenge. The Census count is what forms the basis for the political mapping that creates the framework for our voting to determine our elected leadership.
We need an independent remapping process in place of the partisan gerrymandering we have now, which has politicians in power drawing districts and picking their own voters.
In the midst of a pandemic, talking about gerrymandering might seem like an unneeded distraction, but fixing it goes directly toward giving us the power we’re supposed to have to determine for ourselves who leads and represents us.
In Illinois, gerrymandering has taken our voices and choices away at the ballot box. In 2018, about half of the races for state House and state Senate had only one candidate. When you factor in races won by a landslide margin, nearly 80% of our General Assembly races were not competitive.
Competition ensures elected leaders are responsive and accountable to us. We need to ensure that all of our diverse communities have the chance to elect people of their choosing.
Under our state constitution, we have until only six months before the election — May 3 — to settle what questions will be on our Nov. 3 ballot. CHANGE Illinois and a collaborative of more than 30 diverse organizations statewide have been advocating for transparent, independent redistricting embodied in the Fair Maps Amendment (SJRCA 18/HJRCA 41).
If supermajority numbers of representatives and senators do not vote on this amendment by May 3, we’re likely doomed with rigged maps and foregone elections for another 10 years. The chances now look slim.
Still, even after May 3, we will not stop. We cannot. We owe it to ourselves to advocate for the equitable representation we need.
We’ll continue to fight and to push for redistricting that reflects all Illinoisans, not one political party’s interests or another.
This op-ed was originally published by The State Journal-Register.