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Legislation seeks to to put redistricting reform on Illinois ballot

Under the proposal, lawmakers would no longer draw district boundaries.
districting map

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Illinois News Network) — Lawmakers want to put redistricting reform on the ballot, hoping to succeed where a popular initiative failed.

State Rep. Ryan Spain has introduced a proposed Constitutional amendment that would take lawmakers out of the political map-drawing business. Should it pass into law, the lawmakers that previously drew the legislative boundaries for not only the Illinois General Assembly but the U.S. Congressional districts would be replaced by a 16-member group of independent Illinoisans.

Spain echoed former President Barack Obama’s thoughts about whom should do the choosing come election day.

“We have politicians that are selecting the districts that they will represent and the voters that will elect them,” he said.

The bill is similar to the one passed by state Rep. Jack Franks in the 99th General Assembly. Franks’ bill was never given a Senate vote before session ended despite passing the House with 105 affirmative votes.

“We know that there’s a precedent for accepting this type of solution,” Spain, R-Peoria, said. “With the next Census looming, we need to move forward on some type of reform.”

One potential issue with Spain’s proposal is the way a 16-member independent commission of map-drawers would break an 8 to 8 tie. The bill says it would be a choice of the state’s Supreme Court Chief Justice and another justice from the opposing party. The bill doesn’t say what would happen should they disagree on the map.

“There needs to be some way to break a tie,” Spain said. “We need to move forward with some map that can be agreed upon.”

The 2016 public initiative was shot down in a narrow Illinois Supreme Court vote when a group with ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan successfully sued to have the question pulled from the ballot.

Spain’s bill is currently couched in the House Rules Committee.

The state will get its population information in 2021, after the U.S. Census is conducted in 2010. As the law stands now, lawmakers from the state’s majority party, currently Democrats, will create the maps and either be signed or vetoed by the governor. The reapportionment would conclude in 2022, with the new maps taking effect.

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