Our 2023 year in review

As we prepare to close out 2023, we look back with pride in our progress toward a more equitable democracy for everyone in Illinois and with gratitude for the support your partnership provides in energizing our efforts. This year has been transformative for CHANGE Illinois and the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund, marked by strategic initiatives to inform residents and achieve improvements that will boost representation and accountable government for us all. 

A proactive start: Chicago redistricting survey

Following our work to support and model a people-powered ward map for the state’s largest city, CHANGE Illinois organized a dozen community partners to draft and distribute to more than 200 mayoral and aldermanic candidates a first-of-its-kind Chicago redistricting survey. We sought detailed answers from every candidate, publishing and promoting their responses to give residents vital information about their views on gerrymandering, prison gerrymandering, public participation in government and voting rights. All the responses we received were published in their entirety. Most of the candidates for Chicago mayor, including winner Brandon Johnson, and scores of aldermanic candidates who responded said they believe it’s time to change the behind-closed-doors, incumbent-controlled approach to ward remapping. This effort was a labor of love in service to the public and it shapes our work ahead to make redistricting more community-focused and equitable.

Empowering voters: Election information support

We also worked to inform and empower Illinois voters for the February and April consolidated local elections. We worked to provide voters with the knowledge they needed about safe voting options in their communities, using our website and social media to offer up-to-date information. On Election Day, our team members volunteered to help local nonpartisan voter support groups that coordinated rides to the polls for elderly and disabled voters and monitored social media to combat voting misinformation and disinformation.

Legislative victory: Working to end prison gerrymandering

Working with our collaborative partners from good government and community groups as well as lawmaker allies, we worked throughout the first half of the year to improve the chances of a successful end to prison gerrymandering in 2025. Illinois officials approved a law we supported in 2021 to stop counting people temporarily held in prisons at prison addresses for 10 years for the Census and state redistricting purposes. We followed up that 2021 work educating Illinoisans and supporting the successful passage of HB1496 to ensure that the data needed to implement the No Representation Without Population Act will be available for the 2030 Census. The bill was signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker in June, providing people who are incarcerated, their loved ones, neighbors and communities a win that should help restore their representation by counting them in their home communities. Because people of color are overrepresented in Illinois prisons, prison gerrymandering skews representation from communities of color, shifting representation that should be in urban areas to rural ones where prisons are located. The CHANGE Illinois Action Fund and our community partners supported drafting the legislation, testified in committee and advocated for it as it advanced through the Illinois General Assembly to the Governor’s desk. We remain grateful to the bill’s chief legislative sponsors, Rep. La Shawn Ford and Sen. Robert Peters, and to the Governor for prioritizing this work. 

Strengthening our long-term strategic commitments

The closing year also marked a milestone for CHANGE Illinois as we developed our first-ever long-term strategic plan since its founding in 2009. We were awarded the opportunity to collaborate with seasoned strategic planning professionals who are alumni from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. The Booth Alumni Nonprofit Consultants worked throughout the year with staff, board members and a variety of external stakeholders to help us strengthen our vision, mission and commitment to working for equitable democracy and ethical, efficient and accountable government.

Bolstering our people power

We also benefited from collaborating on research with an independent political scientist from the University of Illinois, which helped deepen our understanding of the redistricting landscape that forms the foundation of our democracy. This research resulted in a redoubling of our efforts to grow and build our people power through a statewide network of grassroots organizers. We know our work begins and ends with support from the people of Illinois. We are more committed than ever to deepening and broadening our engagement with people from every corner of our great state.

From local informational surveys to legislative wins, strategic planning, and collaborative community listening, our work has been guided by our unwavering commitment to fostering a democracy that is accessible, transparent, and representative of all voices. As we reflect on the past year’s work, we are eager to work with all of you in the year ahead to ensure a more just and inclusive government for the good of all of Illinois.