Redistricting Advocates Make Another Push For Constitutional Amendment

Feb 13, 2020

Advocates for changing how Illinois draws legislative districts hope their latest  attempt takes root.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers are backing House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 41, also known as the Fair Maps Amendment. It would place remapping in the hands of a 17-member commission appointed by the state Supreme Court's chief justice and a justice of the opposing party.

Currently, lawmakers redraw their districts every 10 years. Democrats in control of the executive and legislative branches of state government would have full authority to redistrict in the upcoming cycle - potentially cutting superminority Republicans out of the process. 

The 17-member commission would have seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and three independents. Eleven members would need to agree to pass a map. 

Three-fifths of representatives and senators would need to back the amendment for it to make the November ballot, assuming it gets called for a vote at all. 

Change Illinois co-chair Brad McMillan said he hopes Gov. J.B. Pritzker wields his influence to push the bill over the finish line.

"It would be tremendously undemocratic to not allow a vote on the Fair Map Amendment in the House and the Senate," McMillan said. "And we're really going to make that case to the governor, and try to encourage him to publicly get behind this." 

The amendment would also require incarcerated citizens to be counted at their last home address, not prison where they're currently detained; and would align the state constitution with the Illinois Voting Rights Act to make sure minorities receive adequate representation. 

State Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) said Gov. Pritzker's support is "critical" for the bipartisan legislation to make its way through the General Assembly and onto the ballot before reapportionment following the 2020 Census. 

"If you're the leader of our state, you want to do everything you can to say you're putting Illinois back on track, you're rooting out corruption, and you're putting power back in the hands of voters," Spain said. 

But so far, the governor's not taking a firm stance. When asked whether Pritzker supports the amendment transferring map-drawing authority from lawmakers to a 17-member commission, a spokesperson referred WCBU to a video shot Jan. 30 at Illinois State University for his stance. 

"Look, I am going to veto any unfair map that gets presented to me," he said in response to a question on redistricting. "And I believe we'll be able to take care of it that way." 

The spokesperson didn't respond to a follow-up question on whether he supports the amendment introduced Thursday by deadline.

Only three constitutional amendments can come before voters per election cycle, and two slots are already taken. The governor's graduated tax amendment shifting Illinois from a flat income tax rate to a tiered system that would have wealthier people pay more is one. Spain said a labor-backed proposal banning so-called "right-to-work" laws in Illinois is likely to be the second. 

Two previous attempts to place the Fair Maps Amendment on the ballot were invalidated by the Illinois Supreme Court on legal grounds. McMillan said he believes the latest try will meet legal muster.