Editorial | Another battle for fair maps

Editorial | Another battle for fair maps

Some fights never get too old.

The good-government crowd in Illinois may receive regular beatings from status quo politicians, but it rarely gives us the fight for positive change.

How else can one explain a recent announcement from Madeleine Doubek, the executive director of CHANGE Illinois, that her organization is ready to resume the political fight for bipartisan legislative redistricting reform?

"Now that we officially have a new governor and new General Assembly, we have a fresh opportunity to fight for a nonpartisan process to control how our state and congressional district maps are drawn," Doubek wrote. "Throughout his campaign, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was vocal in his support for redistricting reform. He agreed that politicians should not be picking their voters and pointed to his support for an independent process as an example of how his views differed from Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan."

Well, Illinois does have a new governor — Pritzker. But it also has the same old legislative leaders — Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton — and they still embrace the age-old concept of allowing the majority party to draw gerrymandered House and Senate district boundary lines so they can maintain their power.

Does anyone realistically think Madigan and Cullerton will tolerate any changes that could undermine their self-serving way of doing business?

Nonetheless, CHANGE Illinois hasn't given up, and it's determined to continue to apply pressure on legislators to initiate this important change. Further, it's possible that Pritzker could play a key role in helping to bring about that change, although it's equally possible that Madigan and Cullerton will ignore anything he has to say.

At any rate, Doubek said she and her allies remember Pritzker's pledge not to sign off on a gerrymandered legislative map, and they intend to remind him of it on a regular basis.

"We're not the only ones who remember this. Over the past week, both the Chicago Tribune and the Rock Island Dispatch-Argus editorialized, calling on the new governor to use his clout to put gerrymandering firmly in the past," she said.

The News-Gazette is happy to join with those two publications and others calling for redistricting reform. If Illinois ever is to change from its current debased state, bipartisan redistricting reform must be a part of the recipe.

Redistricting will not become a really hot issue until 2021, when, following the census conducted every 10 years, it will be time to redraw state House and Senate district boundary lines for the 2022 election to assure they are generally the same size in population.

Under current rules, Madigan & Co. will draw the new lines, and they will use their power in 2021 just as they did in 2001 and 2011. In other words, using voting patterns, they will manipulate district lines to guarantee their party a permanent majority through 2031 in the state House and Senate.

CHANGE Illinois wants legislation or a proposed state constitutional amendment that will strip legislative leaders of their map-drawing authority and transfer it to a bipartisan commission directed to draw maps without regard to voting patterns. That way, more voters will have a real choice on Election Day.

But Madigan is a ruthless political tactician who is determined to retain gerrymandering. Using the courts, he's twice defeated efforts to put a proposed Fair Map constitutional amendment to a public vote.

Further, one ought not get too excited about Pritzker's anti-gerrymandering pledge because, unfortunately, campaign promises don't count for much.

When he was governor, Democrat Pat Quinn made the same pledge Pritzker did, only to meekly sign Madigan's gerrymandered 2011 maps into law.

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