Chicago Sun-Times: The people of Illinois continue to be bombarded by headlines about Democrat lawmakers being investigated and indicted.
With each new development, the public’s trust in Springfield is shattered. We need to restore faith in state government, and we can begin by changing how we draw the borders of legislative districts.
Gerrymandered districts are designed to shut out the opposing party. In 2012, the Illinois map allowed the Democrats — who drew the map — to win 40 seats out of 59 in the state Senate and 71 seats out of 118 in the state House. They were able to do this though they secured only 52 percent of the vote total in House districts and 54 percent in Senate districts.
Let me put it this way. If the maps were drawn to reflect the true will of voters, created in a non-partisan manner, Illinois Democrats would have won only 62 House seats instead of 71 (52% of all members) and 32 Senate seats instead of 40 (54% of all members).
These skewed results occur because powerful software and detailed, block-by-block voter data enable redistricting plans that give one party huge partisan advantages that survive shifts in voter preferences and demographics. In the 2012 Illinois general election, all but 16 state House and Senate district races were won by more than 55 percent of the vote.
Partisan gerrymandering is not about policy-making but rather the tool used by one party to preserve power at the expense of another.
I truly believe that the power of the Democratic Party to draw this super-majority, gerrymandered map is the root of the public corruption we are witnessing now. The Democrats do not feel accountable to anyone because of their ability to control every facet of the state Legislature.
They control the budget-making process, sometimes giving the public only minutes to review a budget before voting upon it. They also decide what legislation gets a hearing and which ideas get buried forever in a subcommittee designed to silence an issue.
That the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, both Democrats, can draw legislative maps that serve their interests, rather than the people’s interest, is just wrong. That power needs to be given to the people.
I believe this, and so does Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign said this:
“We should amend the constitution to create an independent commission to draw legislative maps, and I have supported this effort for years. In the meantime, I would urge Democrats and Republicans to agree to an independent commission to handle creating a new legislative map.”
There is currently a measure pending in the Illinois Senate that would place the question of fair maps on the ballot for the next statewide election. If approved, this measure would establish an independent redistricting commission, increase transparency in the process and provide for public hearings to allow Illinois residents to weigh in on the issue.
This measure has bipartisan support and enough sponsors to pass it out of the Illinois Senate. The time to act is now.
For too long, the people of Illinois haven’t had a voice in this process — it’s time to change that. By advancing this legislation and getting this resolution on the ballot, we’re putting the power to bring about change in the hands of the voters where it belongs.
Bill Brady, of Bloomington, is the Illinois State Senate Republican leader.