Will a third time be the charm?
Last June, the YES for Independent Maps campaign decided to end its reform effort seeking a ballot referendum on a constitutional amendment to finally change Illinois’ seriously flawed redistricting process. While the campaign received a Cook County court ruling that upheld most of the components of the redistricting initiative, it found that a narrow provision went beyond the proper scope of a constitutional amendment. In addition, the campaign was being challenged by the powerful political status quo on the validity of 530,000 petition signatures through the State Board of Elections. In the end, we ran out of money to wage legal battles on multiple fronts.
The redistricting reform would not have taken effect until after the 2020 census. Thus, there are at least two statewide elections—in 2016 and 2018—to bring redistricting reform before Illinois voters again. I have personally been deeply involved with redistricting reform for the last six years, and I am in no way ready to throw in the towel. I still firmly believe this is the most important reform that can help return good government to the Land of Lincoln.
In California, it took six attempts before finally passing redistricting reform. I’m hoping the third time will be the charm in Illinois. We have learned valuable lessons from this second reform effort that can propel us across the finish line.
Although YES for Independent Maps raised millions of dollars through 1,000 contributions, we need to double our contributions and raise the money much earlier in the process. We need to hire a top-notch firm to get paid petition signatures early in the campaign; that’s how California and other western states get so many constitutional amendments on the ballot. We also need to have millions of dollars still in the bank when the status quo inevitably brings its legal challenges trying to knock us off the ballot.
Secondly, we need to revise the amendment language consistent with the court ruling and get the petitions in the hands of an army of volunteers as soon as possible. The last campaign built an unprecedented, bipartisan statewide coalition of more than 5,000 volunteers and a myriad of diverse organizations that remain passionate about redistricting reform. They are chomping at the bit to get this reform finally passed in Illinois. The validity rate of the volunteer petition signatures gathered for YES for Independent Maps was extremely high, and we need to double this effort next time.
Illinois’ current redistricting process is done by a few powerful politicians behind closed doors, and the results are the most gerrymandered legislative districts in America. Not surprisingly, 97 percent of incumbents get re-elected, and the gridlock continues.
Fortunately, there are a growing number of citizens and reform organizations in Illinois that will carry on this critical cause. The future of Illinois is at stake. Watch for a third redistricting reform effort to be launched very soon… and get engaged! iBi