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|Knox College Professor Wants Legislative Redistricting Reform
|A potential area of government reform is getting little attention, and a local college professor wants to change that.
The attention in Springfield these days is on campaign fund-raising and state contracting. James D. Nowlan, a public policy professor at Knox College in Galesburg and a senior fellow at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, says the once-a-decade drawing of the districts from which lawmakers are elected should be reformed.
In recent times, the redistricting process - required to adjust for changes in population, so that each district's population is roughly equal - has been used to create a majority for the party controlling the process, or to make certain incumbents more or less secure.
"The process has become on in which the legislators, the lawmakers, select their voters, rather than do the voters select or elect their lawmakers," says Nowlan, a former state representative himself (1969-73).
The Illinois Constitution allows the districts to be drawn by legislation. However, in all three instances of redistricting under the current Constitution (1981, 1991 and 2001), state government had a partisan divide, and an agreement could not be reached. The Constitution then hands the job to an eight-member panel, with four members from each party. If they don't reach a compromise, a ninth commission member is picked at random, giving control of the process to that individual's party. The framers of the 1970 Constitution expected that the consequences of not compromising would be so dire that a compromise surely would be worked out, yet the process has gone to the random draw all three time.
A Constitution amendment has been considered, but not made it onto the ballot, under which the ninth commission member would be someone agreed to by the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and another Supreme Court justice of the other party, and that individual would work to forge a compromise.
Nowlan suggests adopting the Iowa system, in which a computer spits out a map taking into consideration population and geography, but not where the incumbents live or the traditional voting behavior of the residents. Lawmakers then either accept it or ask the computer for another map, but they can't change it.
(Illinois Radio Network)
|04 27 09 by Newsroom
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