Regrettably, the General Assembly has failed the citizens of Illinois again by slamming the door on the opportunity to improve state government through a meaningful overhaul of the state's redistricting process in time for the 2012 election. ICPR opposed the plan rejected by the House Thursday because sponsors did not include suggested safeguards designed to prevent the redistricting process from being hijacked by partisan interests.
It also appears the citizens' initiative known as the Fair Map Amendment will not meet the extraordinary threshold that state law requires.
Despite these roadblocks, the spirit for reform remains very much alive in Illinois.
Even though the opportunity for a thorough restructuring of the redistricting process prior to the 2011 redistricting cycle has passed, Illinois can and must improve public participation and transparency around the map-drawing process.
Competing plans, each backed by one of the major parties, embraced some common ideals: Both proposals mandated that the district-drawing entity hold multiple public hearings across Illinois to allow for citizens to help educate drawers about communities, and to vet proposed maps. And both proposals allowed for the public to participate in the drawing process, by requiring the state to make public Census and other data, along with the tools to draw and submit their own district maps for consideration.
There remains an opportunity to put these agreed-upon improvements in state statute in the coming months. Illinois should enact laws that would mandate sunshine and public participation in the 2011 redistricting process. Additionally, the Illinois General Assembly still has the power, by statute or practice, to improve the state's Congressional redistricting process.
We remain committed to reforming the redistricting process to ensure it is not abused to further partisan interests, that minority voting rights are protected, and that there is transparency throughout the mapping process. Redistricting should protect voters by producing districts that allow the public to have a real opportunity to elect their lawmakers.
The redistricting process should protect the representation of all Illinoisans, not the interests of incumbent state senators and representatives. For that reason, the public must continue to demand that the General Assembly pass reforms that will put voters first, bring sunshine to the redistricting process and give voters an opportunity to influence how districts are drawn.