Friday, April 30, 2010
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House votes down redistricting legislation, nixing reform for this year

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[April 30, 2010]  SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois House failed to give sufficient support to a Democratic redistricting plan on Thursday, with a 69-47 vote falling two votes short of the super-majority needed.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, sponsored the legislation and worked alongside State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, in attempts to get the state constitutional amendment passed and on the November ballot, but the amendment fell short of the 71 votes needed.

During the floor debate, several lawmakers made their case as to why they were for or against the amendment. Some Republican representatives said the Democratic redistricting plan, which would allow some lawmakers to have a say in the redrawing of district maps and also take into account minority populations, is not reform and just a way for lawmakers to draw maps to their own advantage.

The deadline for getting constitutional amendments on the November ballot is this weekend.

State Rep. Jim Watson, R- Jacksonville, said Democrats waited until the last minute so there could be no more changes to the amendment.

"I would say this," Watson said. "It's very inconvenient that the people that brought this bill decided to do it right at the point when it could not be extended any further."

State Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, agreed with Watson and said the constitutional amendment is not reform for the state.

"What a way to do the public's business," Black said. "We talk about reform. Every one of us (lawmakers) should be ashamed of what we are doing here today and what we've done all year."

Republicans have advocated for the Fair Map Amendment, a citizen initiative that would allow a nine-person committee containing no lawmakers to draw the map. However, the four party leaders would choose eight of the nine members, and Democrats have said that aspect to the amendment would be too biased.

Currie said she would rather see redistricting left up to lawmakers and not just the four leaders who appoint a committee.

"I would have thought, in fact, that leaving the decision in the hands of 177 people who are elected by the geographic diversity that is the state of Illinois is more democratic than giving it instead to the hands of four legislative leaders," Currie said.

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State Rep. Will Burns voted in favor of the Democrats' plan and said it takes into account the rights of minority groups in Illinois.

"There is no more important right to people of color than the ability to elect the representatives of their choice," Burns said. "For people that for too many years were denied the right to vote, or, when they had the right to vote, their right to vote was subverted, redistricting is very important."

Gov. Pat Quinn said he does not think the Democrats' plan is reform and did not want to see it pass.

"I'm not excited about (the plan)," Quinn said. "It's awfully complicated. I'm not sure it's a reform or not, to be honest."

Now that the Democratic plan failed in the House, the redistricting process in the state will most likely stay the same. The Fair Map Amendment will most likely fall short in getting the enough signatures to be placed on November's ballot, Pam Czarnik of the League of Women Voters said.

[Illinois Statehouse News; By ASHLEY BADGLEY]

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