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Independent Map Amendment Gaining Steam in Illinois

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Credit: The World Trade Council
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The Independent Map coalition said Illinois' current redistricting process is secretive and politically-motivated.

The Independent Map Amendment hit the ground running only three months ago and has already received more than 210,000 petition signatures. This gives the group a significant jump on its goal of 600,000 signatures by spring 2016.

The Independent Map website said the amendment “will establish a non-partisan, independent commission responsible for drawing state legislative districts in a way that is transparent and open to the public”.

Cindy Canary, Executive Director, said the current system of redistricting involves state legislators re-mapping the boundaries behind closed doors. Canary said this system is unfair and unacceptable.

 

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Credit The Independent Map Amendment
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Cindy Canary, the Executive Director for Independent Maps said "The legislators are picking who their voters are, rather than the other way around…it’s a totally non-transparent process".

“The legislators are picking who their voters are, rather than the other way around.  It’s a totally non-transparent process. And I think that our sense is if incumbents are going to be reelected, it should be because the voters want them to, not because the map’s rigged,” Canary said.

           

Canary added that Illinois’ current re-mapping process goes against the basic principles of representative democracy and allows for gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering refers to a political technique in which districts are redrawn with the sole purpose of creating a partisan advantage. Illinois’ Fourth Congressional District is one of the nation’s most prominent examples of this method.

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Credit Economics on Fire
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Illinois' 4th congressional district is a prime example of gerrymandering. The district contains two entirely separate Hispanic areas of Chicago, linked only by a stretch of Interstate 294. Hispanic voters are statistically liberal, making the 4th district one of the strongest Democratic powerhouses in the nation.

Independent Maps is calling for a commission of citizens to redraw the district boundaries when the time comes every ten years. The commission would be entirely independent of the district representatives, making it free from political persuasion.

Canary said the group is prepared for political opposition. 

"The major opposition to this really comes from sitting elected officials, particularly those who are in the majority such as the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority President. [They] have a system that they now control and are reluctant to see that change because it means a potential shift in power," Canary said.

Canary said if all goes according to plan, Illinois voters should see the amendment on the ballot in the November 2016 election. If the amendment receives approval from a majority of voters (or 60% of voters on this amendment alone), the new district map will be decided in 2021 by an independent commission.

The new districts would take effect in the 2022 election cycle.