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Our View: Time to reduce politicians’ influence

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

April 9’s consolidated election saw some incumbents go down in defeat in contested elections.

Voters had enough. They were ready for change.

But, what if city councils, village boards and township boards had the authority to approve an ordinance that protected those incumbents from losing?

What if an ordinance could be written and approved to protect one party or faction at the expense of other parties or factions?

Would that be fair to all candidates? Would that be fair to the public?

Of course not.

However, after the census is taken every 10 years, the Illinois General Assembly has that power.

It’s called redistricting. It’s a law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor that establishes new boundaries for state House and Senate districts and congressional districts.

Republicans and Democrats have abused that power because the Illinois Constitution permits it, and they simply can’t resist.

Democrats controlled the process in 2011. They approved maps that maximized their party’s chances of victory. The results brought more Democrats to the Legislature and Illinois’ congressional delegation, but less accountability at the ballot box, less responsiveness to the public, and less incentive to work across the aisle to solve problems.

Other states have wisely reduced the influence of politics in the redistricting process while still complying with the Voting Rights Act. In a week, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute will examine how Illinoisans might learn from those states.

The Simon Institute plans a public seminar from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday in Springfield titled “Who holds the crayons? How other states draw legislative district lines.”

The Simon Institute, based at SIU-Carbondale, will not endorse any particular plan, but its director, David Yepsen, believes the state’s current redistricting system contributes to Illinois leaders’ inability to solve “some of the biggest financial problems faced by any state in the country.”

The symposium will take place at the Inn at 835, 835 S. Second St., Springfield. To register, contact Carol Greenlee, Simon Institute project coordinator, at 618-453-4078, or register online at illinoisredistricting.eventbrite.com. There is no charge to attend.

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