To proponents taking their third shot in five years at getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would change the way Illinois legislative districts are drawn, their proposal can be the fix that makes all the other fixes to state government possible.
An independent commission crafting legislative districts would create more competitive races, making legislators in Springfield truly responsive to voters and more likely to tackle the state’s long-unmet needs, reformers with the Independent Map Amendment coalition argue. Opponents, however, see this attempt as one that would remove accountability from the process, disadvantage minorities and tamper with a system that isn’t necessarily broken. The idea of an independent body redrawing the boundaries of districts isn’t new. But only a few examples across the country show voters what might occur if a constitutional amendment makes it onto the ballot and is passed by Illinois voters.
Creation of such commissions is “a slow-growing trend,” said Wendy Underhill, program director for elections and redistricting with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Some states have had them since before the 1970s, and others have been created in the intervening decades. Among states debating them in the past few years are New York and Ohio. But, Underhill notes, only a couple of so-called independent redistricting commissions exist.
Although the 2002 and 2012 maps have been subject to repeated lawsuits over the boundaries — including one that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the map this summer — one academic who has studied redistricting has come away with a favorable impression of the work of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission.