Group looks to put voters in charge of redistricting

Adam Larck
mtn@timestoday.com

In 2009, Brad McMillan served on the Illinois reform commission, a group that tried to help reform the redistricting process done every 10 years on legislative maps in Illinois.

However, the group soon found themselves hitting a wall in the reform process.

“We tried to work with the governor and legislators in 2009 and that fell through,” he said.

The group decided that the issue was too important to let die, though, and continued to work on changing the language of the redistricting process to reform it.

“I think it’s the most fundamental reform that can take place to return government back to Illinois,” McMillan said. “The two key things it would bring to the Illinois government are accountability and competitiveness.”

This led to the Yes for Independent Maps group being formed in the summer of 2011 to try and bring the issue to the November 2013 ballot.

“Now we have until May 4 to get the 298,399 signatures we need to get on the November 2014 general election ballot,” McMillan said.

Pat Landes, who is also helping gather signatures in the central Illinois area, said she got involved because redistricting is a crucial step in improving the state government.

“If we are going to have a government that we want, that we deserve, that functions in the best interest of our citizens, we have to change one component of the fundamental structure of how we elect our representatives — the drawing of legislative districts,” Landes said. “We must stop having the politicians deciding who gets to vote for them.”

Helping to gather signatures are 20 regional teams around the state and a paid firm from the west coast.

“We’re making very good progress, but I also know we have a mountain still to climb,” he said.

To help get the word out in the area, the group has been talking to various service clubs. He said that his group currently leads the state in the percentage of signatures gathered.

“This month I worked with another volunteer, Brad McMillan, to recruit very positive support from Morton Rotary, Morton Chamber of Commerce and Morton Community Bank,” Landes said. “The response was very strong, and those groups are still circulating petitions.”

Signatures are being collected until mid-April to allow the group to have time to bind and number the petitions that need to be sent to Springfield by May.

The group is at Apple’s Bakery in Peoria from 10 a.m.-noon every Saturday to collect signatures as well.

If the movement does make the November ballot and is passed, it would not take effect until the maps are redone when the next census is held.

“It would be a fully transparent, independent 11-person commission that would draw the maps under public scrutiny and very specific criteria,” McMillan said.

One of the key criteria the Independent Redistricting Commission would follow would be the inability to look at voting records when redrawing lines, one of the biggest problems with the last redistricting according to McMillan. The commission also would not be able to look at an incumbent’s home address.

“After they drew the maps in 2010, 97 percent of Illinois incumbents were reelected,” he said.

Landes said most residents would be eligible to apply to be on the commission and hopes to have a strong response from central Illinois if passed.

Those that cannot serve on the commission include anyone that fell into the following groups up to three years prior to the appointment: a candidate or holder of public office; an employee or officer of the state, unit of local government or political party; a registered lobbyist anywhere in the United States; someone who was party to a contract to provide goods/services to the state; or lived with anyone listed above.

In addition, there are prohibitions on certain political service for 10 years after service on the commission.

“This redistricting initiative provides a unique, grass roots opportunity for the extraordinary voters all over the

state of Illinois to take control of the redistricting process, to increase the accountability of candidates and elected officials to the voter,” Landes said. “We can, and we will, make a difference in our future.”

For more information about the movement or to sign up to gather signatures, visit IndependentMaps.org.

“We need people to sign petitions, circulate petitions, volunteer to work petition events, or have petitions at their workplace,” Landes said.