Mt. Vernon Register-News

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April 2, 2010

JCCC supports Fair Map Amendment

MT. VERNON — The Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce has spoken out in support of putting a Fair Map Amendment issue on the November ballot.

“We are asking citizens to sign a petition to put the amendment question on the ballot,” said Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brandon Bullard. “There is an April 15 deadline coming up to get an amendment on the ballot. There are already two amendment questions on the ballot and there are only three amendment questions allowed, so we want to make sure to do what we can to get this on.”

At this time, the two amendments on the ballot are for the elimination of the office of Lieutenant Governor and an amendment to allow the legislature to remove a sitting governor without impeachment.

The JCCC board of directors voted unanimously in support of the amendment during its March meeting, Bullard said.

According to information from the League of Women Voters, for the past 30 years, Illinois legislators have created districts that ensure their re-election “by drawing their own maps behind closed doors. The result is that 98 percent of elections for the Illinois legislature are won by the incumbent. The legislature could change this process, but they haven’t and they won’t. It’s up to us, the people. A fair map is the first step in taking Illinois back from the politicians. If you’re not happy with Illinois government, sign the petition.”

Some of the changes proposed under the amendment drive affect criteria, who draws the maps, who approves the maps, fail safe provisions, transparency, minority protections and a timeline for new districts to be drawn.

Changes in the current language to legislative districting would be changed. At this time, the state Constitution states the criteria for districts are “compact,” “contiguous,” “substantially equal population” and “nested.” Under terms of the change, the language for criteria would change to  include “compliance with federal laws, including providing substantive protection for voting rights,” “contiguity,” “substantially equal population,” “compact,” “follow geographic features and municipal boundaries,” nondiscrimination against any political party or group,” and “allows de-nesting.”

At this time districts are created by the Legislature, and under the proposed amendment, the districts would be drawn by a Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission made of nine members with two chosen by each legislative leader. The ninth member who would be the chair, would be chosen by other members of the commission, and “no member can be a lobbyist, immediate family member, public or political official, contractor or employee of the state of Illinois.”

Under the current system, the districts are approved by the Legislature by a majority vote with approval by the governor. Under the new proposal, the districts would be approved by whatever legislative body the map affects by a two-thirds vote.

The Illinois Fair Map Amendment Movement is a grassroots movement that began with the League of Women Voters, and now has partners of the Better Government Association; Illinois Reform Commission members Patrick Collins, Brad McMillan, Sheila Simon, David Hoffman and Duane Noland; the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform; Common Cause Illinois; the Illinois Chamber of Commerce; Americans for Prosperity; the Illinois Alliance for Growth; the Illinois Farm Bureau; Independent Voters of Illinois Independent Precinct Organization; Protestants for the Common Good; United Power for Action and Justice; DuPage County United and Lake County United.

To get the amendment question on the ballot requires more than 280,000 signatures of registered voters in the state and the group is working to collect more than 500,000 signatures in anticipation of challenges to the signatures.

Anyone who would like additional information about the petition drive and the proposed changes to districting may go to www.ilfairmap.com. Those who wish to sign the petition may do so by using the “sign the petition” link on the site.

Additional information is also available by contacting Bullard at 242-5725.

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