Petition drive to change Illinois redistricting process

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

 Individuals wishing to pick up petition forms and collect signatures for the Independent Map Amendment initiative may do so here at the Mercer County Farm Bureau. Completed petitions also may be returned to the local office.

“Our grassroots policy has long supported restructuring the Illinois legislative redistricting process and we feel the Independent Map Amendment coalition’s proposal is a balanced approach to the process,” said Kevin Semlow, director, state legislation, Illinois Farm Bureau. “We believe a change in the way maps are drawn will benefit our members, and hope they will take an active role in helping to make that change.”

IFB and the Mercer County Farm Bureau is working with the coalition to reach the goal of gathering 600,000 signatures of registered voters by April 2016. The Illinois Constitution requires that any petition seeking to amend the Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution gather at least 290,216 valid, registered voter signatures.

To gather the necessary signatures, the Mercer County Farm Bureau is asking interested individuals to circulate, collect and return petitions to the Mercer County Farm Bureau office.

“It really is a simple process for any of our members wishing to help with the effort,” Semlow said. “Any legally registered voter in Illinois is eligible. People who sign the petition must use their full address without abbreviations, should include the address where they are registered to vote and information should be legibly written.”

Once completed, the petition sheet should be signed by the person circulating the petition and notarized and returned to the Mercer County Farm Bureau no later than December 2015.

The proposed constitutional amendment would create an 11-member independent redistricting commission to draw legislative districts for General Assembly members. The commissioners would be selected at the same time of each federal decennial census, with the first commission appointed in 2021.

New districts drawn by the commission would be contiguous and substantially equal in population and would comply with federal law. All of the commission’s meetings and records would be open to the public. After a majority of commission members approve a plan, the new districts would be established.

“The proposal from the Independent Map Amendment coalition would remove partisan consideration from map-making and make map-making public and transparent to all, which means election outcomes will not be determined in advance and may deepen the candidate pool for state elections,” Semlow said. “In the end, voters will have more choices on the ballot and more incentive to vote, which is a win-win situation for everyone, not just farmers.”