Lawmakers, coalition partners urge support for redistricting reform

Resolutions propose amending the constitution to create an independent redistricting coalition, which IFB vice president says would 'bring an unbiased redistricting process to our state.'

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Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Brian Duncan of Polo, right, listens as Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, urges her colleagues to support legislative redistricting reform and SJRCA26, which she sponsors, during a Statehouse press conference. Morrison is joined by, from left, Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, sponsor of a companion resolution, HJRCA43; Madeleine Doubek, Better Government Association director of policy and civic engagement; and Duncan. (Photo by Kevin Semlow, Illinois Farm Bureau)

By Kay Shipman

Calling on their colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly, Senate and House sponsors of a redistricting reform measure joined coalition representatives, including Illinois Farm Bureau, Wednesday seeking floor votes.

“It’s high time – beyond time – to change how we draw our legislative districts in Illinois,” Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria and sponsor of HJRCA 43, said in a Statehouse news conference.

Two companion resolutions would “take the General Assembly and the governor out of that (redistricting) process,” added Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield and sponsor of SJRCA 26.

The resolutions propose to amend the constitution and create an independent redistricting coalition appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court chief justice and the most senior justice associated with the other political party.

IFB and members of the Illinois Redistricting Collaborative seek to put the matter before voters on the November ballot.

“We are excited today to call upon the Illinois House and Senate to pass these two proposals to give the voters of Illinois the opportunity to bring an unbiased redistricting process to our state,” IFB Vice President Brian Duncan said in a prepared statement.

Spain pointed out the General Assembly has the authority to put the measure on the ballot. That would take support from supermajorities in each chamber – 36 senate votes and 71 house votes – by May 6.

The legislation provides deadlines and procedures for redistricting legislative districts after the decennial census. A 16-member redistricting commission would be required to hold 20 public hearings prior to drawing a new district map and at least 10 more following the proposed map’s release.

Opening up the redistricting process and involving the public would “rebuild the trust we have lost with our voters in Illinois and also restore the accountability that has been misplaced,” Morrison said.

Spain told reporters he joined other voters who signed petitions in 2016 to put a redistricting amendment on the ballot. He pointed out the House also passed a similar measure by 105 votes two years ago. “If it was appropriate for the House to consider it two years ago, it is even more appropriate that we do it today,” Spain said.

Duncan noted Farm Bureau has supported several citizen redistricting reform initiatives in the past 10 years, including the 2016 effort. IFB “implores the Illinois General Assembly to approve these two constitutional amendments for the November 2018 ballot,” Duncan said.

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