House rejects redistricting amendment

Staff reports

Following a partisan divide, state lawmakers have shot down an effort to ask voters to change how their legislative districts are drawn every decade.

The House voted 69-47 today for Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 121, pushed by Democrats to change the process for redistricting after every census.

The measure cleared the Senate but needed 71 “yes” votes to get out of the House. It needed at least one Republican vote to pass.

The vote likely assures no redistricting constitutional amendment will make the Nov. 2 ballot, as the Sunday deadline fast approaches.

Advocates are still trying to get signatures for a Republican-backed version, going through a citizen petition drive, in time to make the deadline. Democrats have blocked efforts to consider that Republican measure in the legislature.

Supporters argued the changes in SJRCA 121 would be a vast improvement over the current system, which often results in the party who wins the right to draw the maps picked from a hat to end a long-running deadlock. Democrats contended the process would be more open, transparent and fairer under their plan.

"This is clearly a strong improvement over what we have in the Constitution today," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, the Chicago Democrat sponsoring the amendment.

But Republicans unified in opposition to the measure under one main argument: it still let lawmakers draw their own districts. That, they argue, lets lawmakers gerrymander maps to pick their own voters, rather than voters choosing who represents them at the Capitol.

"The wall we have in Illinois needs to come down. For too long, we have allowed a few people to run this state," said House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego.

State Capitol Bureau