The redistricting reform people say non-political drawing of political maps has worked in other states. They’re pointing to a study that shows using an independent commission to draw maps for Congress and the state legislature has benefitted communities of interest, and neither harmed nor helped either major political party. The authors were Nicholas Stephanopoulos at the University of Chicago Law School and Ruth Greenwood at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee. Ryan Blitstein, director of Change Illinois, is not surprised by the findings.
“We’ve seen decades of redistricting reform in states like Arizona and California and in countries throughout the world, and in all the cases, when you make redistricting independent, non-partisan and transparent, what you get, of course, is fairer districts and better representation for all communities,” he said.
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You do not necessarily get more competitive races; some districts will be heavily Democratic or heavily Republican no matter how they’re drawn.
Change Illinois tried to get a reform measure on the ballot in Illinois this year, but didn’t collect enough signatures. The organization is in education mode now, but may undertake another signature drive in 2016.
Under Illinois’ current system, the General Assembly draws the map. If there is divided partisan control involving the House, Senate and the governor, they will have to compromise, or the matter gets pushed to an eight-member commission which must compromise, otherwise a random draw adds a ninth member, and that member’s party will unilaterally control the process.