How the Fair Maps Amendment and a Complete Census can ensure a representative democracy.
Image courtesy Ryan Tolley, CHANGE Illinois
Remarks delivered by CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek in Chicago Feb. 13, 2020 at the reintroduction of the Fair Maps Amendment, HJRCA 41 and SJRCA 18:
The clock is ticking.
Illinois has until May 3 to define a fair redistricting process. While the State of Illinois is concerned about the Census, we also need to set up Illinois for a fair redistricting process. Fair redistricting maps and a complete Census Count ensure that all residents are fairly represented.
Current Federal legislative districts
Following the Census, legislative districts are redrawn to reflect changes in population. Each state determines how the new districts are drawn. Often, redistricting done by politicians results in gerrymandering legislative districts. Gerrymandering results in voter suppression, regardless of the political party that is in control. In a polarized political climate, it may be tempting to tip the scales for the party in power to gain more influence but drawing safe districts.
To prevent this from occurring in 2020, a bipartisan Fair Maps Amendment has been proposed before the Illinois legislature, with Chief Senate sponsors Melinda Bush (D) and John Curran (R) and Chief House Sponsors Terra Costa Howard (D) and Ryan Spain (R). The amendment places a referendum on the November ballot for an independent redistricting commission to draw maps representative of the demographic, political and geographic diversity of Illinois. It would ensure federal protections for voters of color and additional protections for racial and language minority groups. Representative democracy is key to restoring trust in the democratic process.
“The people of Illinois understand that we can’t have honest government and hold politicians accountable if we don’t have truly competitive elections,” says CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek. Fair maps allow for our political structure to represent the population accurately in the legislative process.
Planning for the future
Not only is the clock ticking for the Fair Maps Amendment, but the countdown is on for the start of the Census, which begins April 1. Illinois has allocated $29 million to Census related activities to encourage a complete count. The state knows that Census data is the basis for a lot of decisions made by state and local governments to allocate resources. Without a complete Census count, planners and government officials will not have an accurate picture of the populations they are serving.
The stakes are high. Future federal funds depend on the Census counts. The number of house districts that represent Illinois at the federal level depend on population. Yet there are several barriers to getting a complete count. According to the Chicago Urban League, Illinois ranks 6th highest among states in the number of Hard to Count (HTC) populations. Difficult to count groups include children, ethnic and racial minorities, non-English speakers, the disabled, immigrants, homeless residents and others who face obstacles in being counted.
Fair redistricting and a complete count or both needed for a fair, representative democracy in Illinois. MPC and Transform Illinois are proud supporters of the Fair Maps Amendment to ensure a vibrant, representative democracy in Illinois and support all communities as they engage in the #2020Census complete count.