Crowdsourcing fairer maps

by Rep. Mike Fortner

It has been said that the fundamental problem with the way Illinois draws its political districts is that it lets the politicians choose their voters, rather than let the voters choose their politicians. This year an attempt to solve that problem by Independent Maps was rejected as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I’d like to offer another solution, one that I have filed as HJRCA 60.

The method for creating an independent commission proved to be one of the stumbling blocks for the Independent Map Amendment in court. I’d keep the formation of the commission the same as it currently is in the constitution, but I would change its function. Instead of drawing a map, the commission would provide data and software for drawing maps to the public. This provides a procedural change as required for a citizen initiative.
A citizen initiative must include both procedural and structural changes and it must stay confined to changes to the legislative article of the constitution. My proposal separates House and Senate districts as was recommended by the Illinois Reform Commission in 2009. This provides a structural change to the legislature as required for a citizen initiative.

Unlike the Independent Map Amendment, my proposal stays confined to changes in the legislative article of the Illinois Constitution. The Secretary of State currently acts to break a deadlock, and I keep the Secretary in substantially the same role. I also leave the roles of the Attorney General and Supreme Court as they are in the current redistricting process.

So, how are the maps drawn? I’d let the public draw them. The legislature must first define in law the criteria that will be used and how maps are scored, before the Census data is released. Then by “crowdsourcing” the creation of the map the public can submit maps or improve on previous submissions. The commission acts as the referee, making sure maps meet the law and are scored and submitting the top three maps to each chamber. Each chamber may vote to approve one by a supermajority vote, but the legislature can’t amend any. If a chamber cannot agree on a map, then the Secretary of State certifies the map with the best score.

One state that is often praised for their redistricting process is our neighbor Iowa. Like this proposal Iowa separates the task of drawing the map from the task of approving the map, and the criteria for drawing the map are laws passed by the legislature. Like this proposal the Iowa legislature can only vote up or down on the map.

My proposal is not entirely new. It’s based on a proposal that I filed in 2009. That proposal had a hearing in the Senate and received mention in a few media outlets. The Daily Herald (Aug 8, 2009)  asked its readers to “urge your state representative and state senator to look at this proposal.”

Maybe it is time to do just that.