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Fair Maps Illinois gears up for final push before 2021 redistricting

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Friday, September 6, 2019  |  Article  |  By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

Redistricting (78) Madigan, Michael--State House, 22
Advocates trying to take the political map-making process away from Illinois politicians and give it to an independent panel have one last chance before redistricting happens again in 2021.

Redistricting is scheduled to take place in Illinois shortly after the 2020 Census concludes. That process will draw out the state and congressional districts that will be in effect until 2033. 

As the state’s guiding charter currently stands, the decennial map-making effort is run by the majority party in the General Assembly and approved by the governor. 

Former state Rep. Peter Breen, a Republican, said Fair Maps Illinois recruited hundreds of volunteers over the holiday weekend alone. 

“Fair Maps Illinois immediately returns political power to you, the voter, and breaks the hold of the corrupt machine that’s gripped our state for decades,” he said. “Fair Maps Illinois uses the ability to amend the Illinois Constitution by referendum to rip the power to draw our legislative maps out of the hands of [Illinois House Speaker] Mike Madigan – and anyone else who wants to be “the next Madigan.’ ”

Madigan's spokesman says the initiative had better comply with the Voting Rights Act, which he says these efforts usually ignore.

Fair Maps Illinois will need signatures from 360,000 registered voters. 

This push represents the last attempt to change Illinois’ redistricting process via a ballot initiative before the state’s legislative boundaries are once again re-drawn in 2021, a change that will last another decade. Lawmakers also have the ability to put a measure on the ballot in the same process in which they placed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s progressive tax amendment on the ballot. However, past legislative efforts have been ignored. As a lawmaker, Breen introduced a resolution in 2018 to change the state constitution to make the mapmaking process less partisan. It was never called for a vote.

Similar attempts have been shot down in court. In 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled a voter referendum to change how the state draws political boundaries failed to meet constitutional requirements.

Fair Maps Illinois has proposed an amendment that would change the Illinois Constitution to say, “In the year following each Federal decennial census year, a Bipartisan Commission on Legislative Redistricting having twelve members shall be constituted by March 1 of that year and shall redistrict the Legislative Districts and the Representative Districts. The Speaker and Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and President and Minority Leader of the Senate shall each appoint three persons to the Commission. The members shall be certified to the Secretary of State by the appointing authorities. A vacancy on the Commission shall be filled within five days by the authority that made the original appointment. Not later than July 1, the Commission shall file with the Secretary of State a redistricting plan approved by a majority of its members including at least one member appointed by each of the appointing authorities. An approved redistricting plan filed with the Secretary of State shall be presumed valid, shall have the force and effect of law and shall be published promptly by the Secretary of State. The Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over actions concerning redistricting the House and Senate, which shall be initiated in the name of the People of the State by the Attorney General.” 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he supports a fair map initiative in the state. His office didn't respond to a question about whether the governor supports the plan put forward by Fair Maps Illinois.