SPRINGFIELD, Ill., May 6, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- State officials on Friday accepted a truckload of Independent Map Amendment petitions with nearly twice the minimum number of signatures needed to put the proposed government reform amendment before voters in the November election.
"Illinois voters are demanding reform, and the Independent Map Amendment is their best opportunity to change business as usual at the State Capitol," said Dennis FitzSimons, Chair of the non-partisan Independent Maps coalition. "Today, legislators are in charge of drawing the boundaries of their legislative districts. After this amendment becomes law, those maps will be drawn by an independent commission consisting of a diverse group of citizens from all areas of the state, and they will be mandated to draw maps that protect minority voting interests and without favoring any political party."
To qualify for the ballot, citizen-initiated constitutional amendment proposals require petitions signed by at least 290,216 registered voters. The coalition turned in a 36-foot long container with 65,261 petition pages signed by more than 570,000 Illinois voters. To enact the reform amendment, it will need to receive the approval of a majority of the people voting in the 2016 election or 60 percent of those voting on the amendment question.
"Next up will be a statewide education campaign to inform voters about the need for impartial redistricting and why they should support adoption of the Independent Map Amendment," FitzSimons said. "But as you can see from the estimated 1,800 pounds of petitions, voters are eager to make this reform a reality. They are tired of voting in uncontested elections where only one candidate is on the ballot in a district where the outcome is predetermined by the politicians drawing the maps."
The percentage of legislative elections featuring at least two candidates has decreased significantly over time, according to recent research. In the 2014 primary election, nine of 10 state legislative elections had only one candidate on the ballot. In the upcoming general election, voters in seven of 10 state legislative elections may not have a choice of two candidates.
"Voters deserve choices in elections, and they should be able to choose who will represent them in Springfield," said Dave Mellet, Campaign Manager for Independent Maps. "President Barack Obama made the same point when he spoke about redistricting reform in a speech to the Illinois General Assembly earlier this year. The President said: 'In America, politicians should not pick their voters, voters should pick their politicians.'
"People across the state – from both major parties and people who don't identify with either party – support the Independent Map Amendment," Mellet said. "We greatly appreciate the many hours of help from volunteers who gave up their time to pass petitions to improve Illinois. The list of supporters is long and includes the League of Women Voters, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, AARP Illinois and a wide range of statewide and community organizations, elected leaders, clergy and so many others. Please go to our website (www.MapAmendment.org) to see the entire list and to volunteer to help us educate more voters."
The Independent Map Amendment would create an 11-member commission representing the demographic and geographic diversity of the state. The commission meetings and records would be open to the public, and the commission would be required to hold public hearings throughout the state. The commission drawn maps would be required to protect the voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities, and the maps would be drawn without regard to incumbency or partisanship. Adoption of the maps would require approval of seven commissioners, including at least two Democrats and two Republicans. The amendment text and more detailed explanation of the reform are available at www.MapAmendment.org.
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SOURCE Independent Maps