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State Rep. Mike Smiddy said Monday he will draft a bill to take legislative map-making out of the hands of political leaders and put it in the hands of an independent commission.

The Hillsdale Democrat anticipates this effort to draw politics out of the process will mirror a constitutional amendment some half-a-million Illinoisans recently tried, but failed, to get on the Nov. 4 ballot.

That widely supported, but largely grassroots Yes for Independent Maps petition drive ran up against three powerful forces that were simply too much to overcome:
— Draconian requirements that make it all but impossible for initiatives carried out mainly by citizen volunteers to qualify for the ballot;
— Opposition from entrenched politicians with everything to lose if politics is X-ed out of map drawing; and
— A judge armed with Supreme Court precedents that lock citizens out of the process.

A cadre of hardworking Quad-Cities volunteers were among those who worked hard to overcome those disadvantages through the now suspended Yes for Independent Maps effort.

Rep. Smiddy also signed on early to promote the campaign, unlike many of his colleagues who either actively opposed or were dismissive of the need to take the politics out of redistricting.

It’s doubtful that his backing of the cause won him many friends in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s circle. (Though they didn’t come directly from the Chicago Democrat leader himself, the successful challenges to the redistricting amendment and another to impose term limits on legislators were led by a long-time Madigan ally and operative.)

It will be a monumental battle to convince the speaker and a super-majority in both chambers of the General Assembly that voters should get to decide whether to change a system under which most incumbent legislators aren’t even challenged for reelection.

It will help if voters demand that their lawmakers do so by actively supporting a system that allows voters to pick their legislators and not the other way around.

Rep. Smiddy expects to introduce his bill in the fall veto session and hopes to get it on the ballot in 2016, the next statewide election year. That’s also several years before the independent map-drawing panel it seeks to create would be called on to redistrict following the next Census in 2020. He says he’ll work with legal experts to address constitutional objections.
Michael Kolenc, former manager of the Yes for Independent Maps campaign, is among those excited by Rep. Smiddy’s decision to push for an independent, fair and transparent redistricting process.

“The over half million petition signers would likely welcome such a move and it is great that Smiddy is still taking a lead on this important reform,” he said via email Tuesday. “There is no doubt that the organizations that supported our campaign will be interested to learn more from him.”

So, we believe, will many Illinoisans who might not have heard about the remap effort until after it was derailed. The success of the ruling class in quelling this latest voter uprising comes even as polls show the vast majority of Illinoisans believe there is corruption in their state and half would leave the Land of Lincoln if they could.

Despite two recent failures, time is still on redistricting reformers’ side.
Unfortunately, for now at least, two members of the Quad-Cities legislative delegation, Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, and Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, are not. While both said they cannot say whether they would support Rep. Smiddy’s bill without seeing it, their comments Monday were hardly encouraging regarding the effort.

The good news is there is yet time to change their minds and we believe enough support to do so, but only if backers of good government join Rep. Smiddy in refusing to surrender.

We urge Quad-Citians to join us in supporting Rep. Smiddy’s effort to revive what we continue to believe is the single most effective reform available to change the culture of corruption and return government accountability to the citizens in Illinois.


Original Source: QConline.com, “Editorial: How can you rejoin battle to take back Illinois elections?
Image credit: John Greenwood / jgreenwood@qconline.com.  

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