Group Seeks To Change Redistricting Process

May 21, 2013


A government watchdog wants to change the way Illinois draws legislative districts.  Currently, lawmakers control the process, with Democrats drawing the most recent map. Change Illinois! wants the state to form an independent board to fill that role. The group’s president, Ryan Blitstein, says too many elections have become uncompetitive:

“In two-thirds of House districts, we’re in a situation where there is no challenger. So we don’t know whether the voters are happy with the legislators that they’ve got because they don’t get a chance at the voting booth on Election Day to make that decision.” -Ryan Blitstein, Change Illinois!

Some states, such as Missouri, use bi-partisan commissions.  NIU political scientist Matt Streb says either one is better than the Illinois method.  But he warns many bipartisan panels require a super-majority to approve a map. That, he says, could substitute one gerrymander for another:

“What has happened often is, instead of drawing districts to protect certain parties, you draw districts to protect incumbents because otherwise you can’t get enough votes to pass a redistricting plan.”-Matt Streb

Matt Streb
Credit NIU

Streb suggests an independent commission might be more effective.  He points to last year’s elections in California where the number of defeated incumbents increased after an independent panel was formed in 2011.

Any change to Illinois’ redistricting process would require 300,000 signatures to put their proposal before voters.  Change Illinois! says it’ll try to get such an amendment on the 2014 ballot.

Chris Slaby contributed to this report.