LEGISLATIVE REMAP PROCESS MUST BE REFORMED
Now that the spring legislative session is officially over, next on the agenda for state lawmakers is reviewing the legislative remap process – a process that can dramatically change the political makeup of Illinois.
The first of three statewide hearings is currently scheduled for July 29 in Chicago.
Reforming the state’s system of drawing legislative district boundaries is essential to address the excessive partisanship and lack of accountability that has plagued state government. In Illinois, this process has come under increasing criticism because of the way redistricting is accomplished through “gerrymandering.”
WHAT IS GERRYMANDERING?
The redrawing of legislative district boundaries occurs every 10 years and follows the U.S. Census report on population.
Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing legislative district boundaries to give an advantage to a particular candidate or party. Illinois has been sharply criticized for its system of drawing state legislative and congressional district boundaries in a manner that allows politicians to pick their voters, rather than allowing the voters to pick their representatives.
HEARING ALREADY DELAYED TWICE
The hearing, initially set for July 15, was first pushed back to July 22, before finally being set for July 29.
Many reform proponents fear that by consistently pushing back redistricting hearings, legislative leaders who benefit from partisan gerrymandering are purposely undermining genuine reform efforts. Proponents say restoring accountability to state government must begin with the most basic function of democracy – elections. To assure fair and competitive elections, it is vital to take the politics out of drawing legislative and congressional districts.
It is not known whether these delays will impact other redistricting hearings, which were originally scheduled to take place in Peoria in August, Carbondale in September and Springfield in October.
ORIGIN OF THE TERM
The term “gerrymandering” comes from combining salamander and the name of Elbridge Gerry, the governor of Massachusetts from 1810 to 1812. In 1812, Gerry signed into law a redistricting plan that was designed to benefit his political party. The term was first used in the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812, to describe a district that the newspaper likened to the shape of a salamander. The newspaper referred to the district as a “Gerry”-mander.