from Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — As Illinois’ political leaders start to re-map the state’s legislative districts, lawmakers and reformers agree on one thing: Citizens should be involved in the process.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said it’s important to get voter feedback as the legislature redraws the district map.
“We want input from different groups,” Raoul said. “And so how do we sell it? We present the proposal just as we’re presenting it to you today and we ask for input.”
Mary Schaafsma, the issues and advocacy coordinator for the coalition pushing the Fair Map Amendment, agrees that voter input is integral to the process.
The Fair Map Amendment calls for the creation of an independent, bi-partisan organization to draw district lines instead of the current system that favors incumbents.
“We are engaged now in a process of getting voters and citizens involved in this initiative,” Schaafsma said, “both to get them to understand they have a stake in the process, but also to reform how it is currently done.”
That’s where the agreement ends. The two sides disagree on who should be in charge of the redistricting effort. Raoul is crafting legislation to keep redistricting in the hands of the legislature, while backers of the Fair Map Amendment are collecting signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.
State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, said he doesn’t understand the desire to remove the redistricting process from the legislature.
“I think that it should remain a legislative process,” Jacobs said.
Raoul said he believes that redistricting is better understood by the legislature and therefore has a better chance of a fair outcome. He fears that putting the process in other hands could adversely affect minority voters.
“I think there’s more ability to embrace the diversity of our great state if you have 177 voices involved in the process,” Raoul said. “The extent to which citizens’ initiatives have been used in other states kind of curtail the rights of minorities.”
Schaafsma said that putting the process of redrawing the map in the hands of the voters will increase the influence of minorities in the process.
“In fact,” Schaafsma says, “[We] think that we have opened up an opportunity for drawing more minority districts under this proposal.”
Schaafsma said the Fair Map Amendment was created to make the process nonpartisan and nonpolitical.
Jacobs said that is simply a fantasy.
“I think it is impossible to take the politics of redistricting out. I think it is part of the political process,” Jacobs said. “Some people are going to argue, well it should be a governmental process. But you know the question becomes where does one begin and the other end?”