Being an American is supposed to mean you are represented fairly in government. But in reality, the lofty intentions behind that ideal are rarely achieved.
Thanks to rampant gerrymandering — the manipulation of legislative maps to favor one political party — voters often aren’t given genuine options at the ballot box.
Illinoisans want choices: A poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute found that nearly 70% of Illinoisans back a fair map-drawing process. Nearly 600,000 Illinoisans signed petitions in support of independent maps in 2016. Even new Gov. JB Pritzker, a Democrat, has said he supports an end to gerrymandering.
Past independent mapping efforts have been blocked, however, and we are afraid similar efforts started this year will meet the same fate. Legislative leaders have not pushed for change because they know that altering the map-drawing system — a step that requires an amendment to the state constitution — means an erosion of their power. Illinois is not the only state in which politicians engage in the practice of picking their voters, but our politicians — Democrats and Republicans alike — have elevated gerrymandering to an art form.
They put their considerable skills into practice every decade, when results from the decennial census are used to create congressional and state legislative districts that reflect population changes. But whichever political party draws the lines uses the process to benefit themselves. Gerrymandering works in two ways: Members of the minority political party either are packed into the fewest districts possible to contain their influence, or they are dispersed to weaken their ability to mount successful election campaigns.
A better process could and should be in place by the next time boundaries are drawn after the 2020 census: Proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced in the Illinois House and Senate. But so far, those measures have lain dormant.
The Senate measure is sponsored by state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield. Her office said it’s unlikely to be taken up this week. Although Friday is the deadline for third reading for Senate legislation, the deadline doesn’t apply to proposed constitutional amendments.
Fair enough. Lawmakers have until spring 2020 to get the proposed amendment on the November ballot. That doesn’t mean lawmakers can’t address the matter now, however, especially when you consider the other proposed constitutional amendment that Democrats — specifically Pritzker — are pushing to get done by the end of this spring’s session.
Pritzker wants approval this year of a proposed amendment to change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to graduated rates that would require wealthy Illinoisans to pay more. He argues that a graduated tax is needed to raise the billions necessary to solve the state’s many fiscal woes. His long-term plans for the state hinge on this change. But voters can’t weigh in on that until November 2020, either.
Illinois legislators historically have not been great stewards of taxpayer money, yet Pritzker is asking us to trust them with even more of it. How’s this for a deal? Pritzker wins legislative approval of the income tax amendment and throws his weight behind an amendment that would create an independent commission to redraw legislative maps. We call that a win-win.
If fair maps were a priority, Pritzker, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton would be pushing the issue. We’re disappointed that Cullerton, typically the grown-up in the room on important issues, hasn’t assigned the proposal to a committee, a step that would allow hearings to begin. It has overwhelming support in his chamber: 36 senators from both parties, including Brian Stewart, R-Freeport, and Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, have signed on as co-sponsors. That’s the necessary three-fifths support it would need to pass. The House version so far is supported only by Republicans.
Lawmakers are supposed to serve their constituents. The people they represent want fair maps. Contact Stewart’s office at 815-232-0774 and Stadelman at 815-987-7557 and let them know you want a vote on this now. Let Pritzker (217-782-2728) and Cullerton (217-782-6830) know how you feel, too.
Illinoisans deserve authentic options at the ballot box. We cannot allow career politicians to keep that from happening any longer. Raise your voice in protest until it does.
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Region: Northern,Feeds,Region: Rockford,Opinion,City: Rockford
via Opinion – Rockford Register Star http://bit.ly/2EUrTq8
April 6, 2019 at 12:34PM