Rep. Breen Crafts Plan to Ensure Fair Maps in Illinois House and Senate Districts

fair_map.pngState Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) filed legislation this week to take politics out of Illinois’ legislative map-drawing process and instead ensure a transparent, objective, and fair process for adopting legislative maps. Breen’s proposal, drafted in cooperation with nationally recognized fair map expert, Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago), would invite everyone in Illinois to submit proposed maps, which would be ranked by how few towns and counties are split to form districts, and then by compactness of districts drawn. The House and Senate would then have the option of adopting one of the top three fairest maps, or else allowing the top-ranked map to go into law. If the General Assembly does not put fair maps on the ballot in 2018, Breen’s fair maps amendment is drafted to meet the legal requirements for a potential citizen-led ballot initiative in 2020.

“There is overwhelming bipartisan support for fair maps,” said Breen. “Our legislative districts should keep towns and counties together, and be as compact as possible. Gerrymandered maps are wrong because they allow politicians to unnaturally divide communities in favor of partisan interests. While there are other Illinois fair maps proposals, this proposal is the only one with specific, objective standards written into it, to guarantee the mapping process stays entirely transparent and fair.”

Breen’s HJRCA 46 would amend the Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution to make the Legislative Redistricting Commission the primary driver of the mapping process, instead of the General Assembly. The commission would provide tools to the public to draw and submit maps and then apply the objective scoring rubric to submitted maps, presenting the top three to the General Assembly. HJRCA 46 retains and repurposes the current constitutional participants in the mapping process—the commission, General Assembly, and Secretary of State—in order to conform with Illinois court decisions about citizen-led fair map initiatives. The amendment also adds one member to the Illinois House, from 118 to 119, both to give the body an odd number of legislators and to meet the Illinois court requirement that any citizen-led change must include a “structural” change.

“The Illinois courts have significantly limited the types of constitutional amendments that the people can put on the ballot, and every potential fair map amendment should be evaluated for its ability to survive the strict judicial scrutiny imposed on citizen-led initiatives,” Breen said. “I’m honored to have the advice and support of Rep. Mike Fortner, a national leader in fair mapping, for this amendment, and with Rep. Fortner’s impending retirement, I intend to continue his fair maps advocacy in the years to come.”

If approved, the Constitutional Amendment would apply to redistricting beginning in 2021 for the election that is held in 2022.