The proposed citizen initiative has garnered more than 120,000
petition signatures to get it on the ballot, but that is less than
50 percent of the 288,000-signature threshold. Supporters of the
amendment had hoped to finish the petition drive by April 1, but
that deadline has come and gone.
The coalition behind the
amendment, which includes the League of Women Voters, said the fight
is not yet over.
"We're not having so much trouble; it's two weeks before we have
to file," said Jan Czarnik of the League of Women Voters. "If we do
fall short, it's only because we haven't had enough people
circulating petitions in such a short amount of time."
The road ahead is long. While the initiative has attracted the
support of the league, as well as the Republican and Green parties,
the drive is being managed by about three full-time staffers.
Kent Redfield, a member of the Institute of Government and Public
Affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield, said the effort
to put the amendment on the ballot is "a long shot."
"If you've got basically volunteers circulating petitions rather
than, say, political parties, people that are normally used to doing
this, you're going to have to have a larger margin of error," he
said. "It's a significant hurdle."
And then there is the issue of public interest.
Redfield said that redistricting does not carry with it the
emotional appeal that successful citizen initiatives enjoyed, like
the 1980 Cutback Amendment -- which reduced the size of the General
Assembly and was championed by then-activist Gov. Pat Quinn.
Redfield believes redistricting is a cut-and-dried, insider baseball
But Czarnik said the amount of interest has surprised her.
"This is the easiest public education campaign (the league has)
ever undertaken," she said. "Our petition circulators get as far as
saying: ‘Hello. Did you know that the members of the General
Assembly draw the districts for which they run for re-election?' The
voters are appalled by this and angered by this."
The amendment would take redistricting -- the process by which
legislative districts are drawn following the federal census -- out
of the hands of the General Assembly. As it stands, the map is drawn
by party leaders, which favors incumbent politicians. If passed, the
amendment would create an independent commission unaffiliated with
political parties, lobbying organizations or state government and
assign the group the task of drawing the political map.
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The amendment has piqued the interest of some in
Springfield, namely Republicans in the minority in both the House
and Senate. House Minority Leader Tom Cross attended Monday's rally
to criticize a Democratic proposal that would reform the process but
keep it in the hands of legislative leaders.
"We need to take it out of the hands of the members of the
General Assembly and give it to an independent commission," he said.
"It's the only way we're going to reform the process, only way we're
going to take a step forward in rehabilitating the image of this
Czarnik joined Cross in opposition to Senate Democrats, who have
proposed several reforms to the mapping process, including opening
up meetings to the public. That proposal was pushed through the
Illinois Senate along party lines.
Czarnik, however, said some Democrats are joining the coalition
in the fight for the Fair Map Amendment, including Democratic
lieutenant governor nominee Sheila Simon.
The coalition must submit the necessary signatures by May 3 in
order to get it on the November ballot. Voters would then get the
chance to vote on the amendment.
On the Net:
Illinois Fair Map Amendment:
Statehouse News; By BILL McMORRIS]