Illinois residents must take advantage of a rare opportunity to remove power from politicians who have allowed Illinois to become too corrupt for too long.
Good government groups, including the League of Women Voters, members of the Illinois Reform Commission and others, are spearheading a drive to change the way we elect members of the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate. But they need your help.
Every 10 years the information gathered in the U.S. Census is used to create a new map of legislative districts to reflect the more accurate population count. Right now, the power to draw the map sits with the lawmakers. When lawmakers can't agree, the Illinois Constitution directs them to take the absurd step of drawing a name out of a hat. That determines which party is likely to control the Illinois General Assembly for the following decade.
A random drawing is a stupid way to break a tie, to be sure. But it's also unfathomable that representatives are allowed to draw their own districts, picking which pockets of voters are most likely to keep them in their jobs.
Members of these groups are passing petitions to collect signatures to put an initiative they call the Fair Map Amendment on the November ballot, the last opportunity to change the constitution before maps based on the 2010 census must be submitted.
If the people don't act now, Illinois likely will be stuck with a system that almost always ensures victory for incumbents regardless of their record. It's a system that breeds corruption and prevents accountability.
Based on recommendations of the Illinois Reform Commission with input from the Brennan Center for Justice, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and others, the measure is far superior because an independent commission would draw the maps. Unfortunately, a citizen initiative can't completely remove the power from the General Assembly. So this calls for each legislative leader to appoint two people to the commission. No lobbyists, no state employees, no politicians or family members. Those eight would have to agree on a ninth member.
The group must follow strict guidelines based on specific criteria. Meetings would be open to the public. Citizens could even submit their own maps for consideration. There are many more details at ilfairmap.org.
Doesn't that sound better than drawing a name out of a hat?
Members of the League, Illinois Farm Bureau, Better Government Association, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and other groups are trying to collect 500,000 signatures by April 1.
We urge you to seek it out and sign it. But that's not all you can do.
Anyone can download the petition, follow the directions, and collect signatures from friends, family and neighbors. Talk to them about this important issue. Remind them that signing the petition simply puts the measure on the ballot so people - and not politicians - can decide.
The Illinois Reform Commission made a recommendation. Lawmakers have done nothing.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, who told us in May he opposes a nonpartisan redistricting plan, has the power to prevent the topic from being heard. Senate President John Cullerton has not shown leadership.
Take the power away from these Chicago Democrats.
Sign the petition. Pass the petition. Today.