The following editorial represents the collective opinion of editorial boards of the following papers owned by Lee Enterprises: The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; The Pantagraph, Bloomington; Herald & Review, Decatur; and Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier, Mattoon.
Our esteemed Springfield lawmakers again couldn’t summon the courage a few weeks ago to change one of the most dysfunctional parts of Illinois political process — how legislative boundaries are drawn. We, as residents and taxpayers, will be weaker because of it.
It involves the decidedly bland-sounding Fair Map Amendment, which would have reformed how House and Senate districts are mapped in the state of Illinois.
We’ve written about this before. Every 10 years, after the census is conducted, a panel of lawmakers gets together and determines how districts are reapportioned. Because rules dictate that districts can only have so many people, they rejigger the lines, sometimes gerrymandering the boundaries just enough to benefit, say, their political party in the next election.
This practice is one reason why so many primaries are so lopsided — the districts have been shaped to create that outcome. Consider that nearly half of the House and Senate races in the fall are uncontested.
Because lawmakers picked by political bosses to serve on the panel are picking who represents areas, not voters.
The system is rigged. And it is very much broken.
A far better process is to have an independent and bipartisan committee. That’s the idea behind the Fair Map proposal, which would make a panel of 16 citizens charged with hammering out equitable and proportional districts.
The GOP would pick seven. Democrats get seven. The Illinois Supreme Court selects three independents.
Such a change requires a constitutional amendment, which meant lawmakers would have to give the green light.
You see the flaw.
The legislation withered in committee, with Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, not even calling it for a vote. And House Speaker Michael Madigan, also chairman of the state Democratic Party, also wasn’t going to budge.
Neither have a reason to.
Their lack of action is not surprising.
Madigan has fought previous efforts, including 2014 and 2016 citizen-petition efforts, to get the change on the ballot.
What is surprising is that so many lawmakers who tout respect for the political process wouldn’t step up for voters, when there's so much evidence reforms are not only needed, but wanted.
A 2016 survey by the Paul Simon Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale found that 64 percent of those polled favored a Fair Map Amendment.
Iowa has taken similar steps. So has California.
Yet, last Sunday, the deadline to get the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot, came and went.
It didn’t stand a chance.
The next census is 2020.
Nothing will be changing with how the maps are drawn.
There’s something wrong with this picture.