Editorials

Opinion: You should pick the politicians. They shouldn't pick you.

Illinois state lawmakers' most extreme examples of gerrymandering after the 2010 Census include the 114th Illinois House district held by state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, and Illinois' 4th Congressional District held by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago.
Illinois state lawmakers' most extreme examples of gerrymandering after the 2010 Census include the 114th Illinois House district held by state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, and Illinois' 4th Congressional District held by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago. BND

Tomorrow you head to the polls to vote in a party primary for state and congressional leaders. Last week we saw a positive move that could fix the broken process for deciding which state and congressional leaders speak for you and your neighbors.

Illinois pushed hard in 2016 to amend the Illinois Constitution so state legislative districts could be drawn by an independent commission. There were 570,000 registered voters who signed the petitions, but Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan's cronies killed the effort in court.

But there's a new effort to get an independent commission to draw legislative boundaries for not only state lawmakers but also our congressmen. It got a boost last week when two Democratic state senators introduced the same bill introduced by a Republican in the state House.

Bipartisanship is important because both parties have abused the process to draw gerrymandered districts that give their party members an advantage. It also is needed to overcome Madigan.

If you look at the maps it is clear why President Obama said we must end the system in which "politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around." The congressional district of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Chicago, looks like a pair of earmuffs as it picks up Hispanic constituents and separates neighboring communities. State Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, represents a district that forms a giant "U," cutting most of Belleville out of the district.

The public policy interests of neighbors should not be sacrificed for the good of the politician. The interests of voters in East St. Louis, Smithton and Lebanon are very different, but all must turn to Greenwood for a voice in Springfield.

The U.S. Supreme Court may fix the political map mess, but fixing the maps for both those we send to Springfield and to Washington, D.C., should be an Illinois priority ahead of the 2020 Census. We don't need another decade of gerrymandered dysfunction.

Federal judges recently ruled that Republicans unconstitutionally gerrymandered two North Carolina congressional districts by race. But redrawing districts to benefit the political party in power is nothing new and has been going on for years.

Call your state representative and state senator and tell them to support the Fair Maps Amendment. Tell them you want to pick them, and don't want them picking you.

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