Springfield … After having his legislative redistricting map selected by the state of Ohio for its balanced and non-partisan approach, State Representative Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) today proposed legislation which would reform and open up the redistricting process in Illinois by using a similar system as being considered in Ohio.
“Ohio had a great idea in trying to reform their redistricting process. By switching to an open source system, they took a highly partisan process and made it more transparent and open to the public,” said Rep. Fortner. “I learned a lot as I balanced the different criteria in competing in the Ohio contest. I hope that Illinois will reform a system where currently the politicians select their voters rather then the people selecting their representatives.”
Rep. Fortner stated that by law every ten years after a census the legislative boundaries for state representatives and senators along with US Congressman are redrawn to reflect the changes in population. Under the current method in Illinois, one party ends up controlling the mapping process and is able to gerrymander districts to suit their interest. In 1990, the Republicans had control of the map and the Democrats had control in 2000. The only effective requirements for the redrawn districts are that they take into account population and minority voting interests according to federal law.
Rep. Fortner added Patrick Collins and the Illinois Reform Commission report also made recommendations to changing the redistricting process as a way to help reform Illinois. The only difference is that the Commission suggested Iowa’s system of using a computer generated software system as a way to draw boundaries.
“I agree completely with the Collin’s report that we need to reform the redistricting process to make districts more competitive and more responsive to the voters. However, the problem with this recommendation is that they focused too much on Iowa which compared to Illinois is a fairly homogenous state. With Illinois’ diverse population, dense population in the northeast region and the requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act, a computer generated system would be unable to balance other criteria satisfactorily. By using an open source system comparable to Ohio, we can ensure that Illinois has a more competitive map which doesn’t exclude the state’s diversity,” said Rep. Fortner.
Under Rep. Fortner’s proposal, redistricting would be a nonpartisan process, opened to the public. HJRCA32 creates two components to the redistricting process. The legislature would be required to set the “scoring system” for how a map that was submitted would earn points. In addition to ensuring that a map met all federal requirements, points would be awarded based on equal population, compactness, competitiveness, respecting minority voting strengths and considering political boundaries. Once the legislature adopts a scoring system, a separate bipartisan commission would provide the necessary data and tools so that the public would be able to create and submit a map for consideration. The three best scoring maps would go to the House and Senate for consideration. If a map does not receive a supermajority vote in both chambers, the best scoring map would be automatically certified by the Secretary of State.
For additional information on the open source system that Ohio used, feel free to visit www.ohioredistricting.org. Rep. Fortner can be contacted at (630) 293-9344.