Proponents of changing the way Illinois draws political maps had their moment Wednesday, but they appear no closer to getting the issue before voters.
Proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would take the remapping process away from politicians and put it in the hands of an independent commission.
Senate leaders allowed proponents of the amendment to make their case at a subcommittee hearing Wednesday. However, in the House, the proposals have been locked up in the House Rules Committee and time is quickly running out.
Both the House and Senate would have to vote by May 6 to put the issue on the ballot. The House is not scheduled to be in session the week of April 30 through May 4.
“The citizens of Illinois deserve a vote,” said Brad McMillan, co-chair of CHANGE Illinois, an organization working to change the redistricting process in Illinois.
“This will take the General Assembly and the governor out of the process,” said Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, lead sponsor of the Senate version. “Politicians don’t belong in this process.”
The focus this year is a plan to have Supreme Court justices appoint members of a commission. The commission would draw the map following a number of criteria aimed at preserving communities of interest, minority voting rights and other factors.
Critics of the current system say political leaders gerrymander districts to protect incumbents and secure majorities for the party in power. Bonnie Cox, president of the League of Women Voters of Illinois, said that of 157 legislative districts up for election this year, 77 have no general election contest.
Madeleine Doubek of the Better Government Association said that bringing the remap process out of political backrooms would be an important step in “rebuilding trust so many voters have lost in their systems.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner has criticized the current process in the past and called for changes. He’s expected to continue criticizing it and House Speaker Michael Madigan’s role in drawing new maps that favor Democrats.
A group of House Republicans, including Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, also called for a new mapping process Wednesday. Among other things, they pointed to polls showing widespread, bipartisan support among voters to have an independent commission draw maps.