Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find responses to the most common questions about the campaign, the amendment and our signature gathering process. Want to join the campaign? Click here to get involved.
Why do we need this amendment?
Illinois government is in terrible shape. We face high levels of corruption, citizens are cynical, and politicians aren’t responsive to our needs. Creating an independent redistricting system is the most important thing we can do to ensure our state government works for the people.
To make that happen, we need to amend the Illinois Constitution to establish a transparent system that puts the voters back in charge. Yes for Independent Maps is proposing a fair, independent redistricting process that offers Illinois residents the chance to take a major step toward transforming our state.
Aren’t elected officials more accountable to voters than a group of appointed citizens?
History says otherwise. The latest redistricting process continued the longstanding practice of protecting favored incumbents and punishing political foes. Overall, 97% of incumbent state legislators won their general election race; two-thirds did not face a challenger.
The key to accountability is an open, transparent process in which the public is involved and independent commissioners know they are being watched by all citizens.
Is this a Republican power grab? Who is behind this?
You can see our list of coalition members here. We are good government groups, not-for-profits, Democratic- and Republican- leaning organizations, and prominent civic and business leaders from across our state. This growing coalition believes the redistricting process is broken and that this amendment is the solution.
But if political leaders in Springfield are against this, won't they disregard this new process?
No. This is an amendment to the Illinois Constitution that will be set in stone if approved by the voters. It will be the law of the land, and politicians will have no choice but to comply.
I heard this amendment is going to hurt minority voting power.
No. That is what people in favor of the status quo want you to think.
Actually, this amendment protects and strengthens minority voting rights. It will not allow the commission to draw maps that dilute or diminish the ability of a racial or language minority community to elect the candidates of its choice. It also tells the commission to respect the geographic integrity of all communities sharing common social and economic interests. When a similar citizen commission drew the maps in California, the number of majority-minority districts went up by 50%.
Further, the process will be open to public inspection before and after the maps are drawn. People across Illinois will have the chance to watch this process from start to finish, ensuring that the voters, not politicians or lobbyists, will hold power over our districts.
How does this amendment ensure an unbiased commission?
The language of the amendment carries with it several safeguards to create the most nonpartisan, unbiased commission possible:
- The commission only includes qualified Illinois citizens. Politicians, lobbyists, and state contractors aren’t eligible.
- The process ensures that the commission reflects the geographic and demographic diversity of the state, as well as a balance between Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated citizens.
- Legislative leaders from both sides can each strike up to five names from the pool of qualified applicants. Republicans will likely strike the most partisan Democrats, and vice versa—leaving behind a more nonpartisan group.
- A lottery system ensures that even if a few partisan actors sneak into the pool, they are unlikely to be appointed to the final commission.
How will you find independent commissioners? Isn’t everyone a ‘D’ or an ‘R’?
According to Pew Research, 40% of Illinois voters identify with neither major party. California attracted more than 30,000 commissioner applicants from across the partisan spectrum. We believe Illinois can attract thousands of qualified applicants as well.
Why is this amendment so complex?
The Illinois political system is broken, and to create the fairest amendment possible, we included multiple levels of safeguards to prevent partisan influences. Our process ensures an open, nonpartisan commission process and a group of qualified, nonpartisan commissioners. We also made certain that the amendment will hold up to potential legal challenges at the state and federal level.
Why not simply use a computer program to draw the maps?
Illinois is a diverse state, and any redistricting process involves complex choices—balancing, for instance, the goal of population equality with that of maintaining the integrity of cities and towns. As sophisticated as computers are, we need real people to make those final decisions, in an open process that involves all Illinois residents.
What are the maps going to look like?
Many policy experts in Illinois have drawn maps that aim to show what neutral district boundaries would look like. However, the goal of an independent commission is to draw the map that the people of Illinois believe best represents them, based on the best available data. Our amendment puts the power in the hands of the people to draw these maps. Therefore, it would not make sense for our campaign to draw predictions of a new map.
We do know that independent commissions draw maps that decrease partisan bias and make elections more competitive, so people can hold politicians accountable. They also preserve communities of interest, so legislators have more incentives to respond to what their constituents want. In a state like Illinois, where corruption is widespread, independent maps are a major step toward ending blatant, corrupt political practices.
Why is the remapping process not based strictly on population? What’s the point of all these other criteria?
The boundaries will be drawn with a respect for population density as well as city and municipal borders. However, our goal is for people and communities to be able to elect representatives of their choice. In a state as rich and diverse as Illinois, simple boxes of equal population could not fully account for the living, breathing communities where real people live.
Why are you waiting until the 2020 census to reform redistricting? Don’t we need change now?
No matter when redistricting happens, a successful Constitutional amendment campaign will send an immediate message to Springfield that the people want major change. Looking out to 2020 takes personal politics out of it, and allows us to discuss long-term reform in the best interests of all citizens in the state.
Are Congressional districts included in this reform?
No. This initiative only includes Illinois House and Senate districts. In Illinois, a citizen-driven Constitutional amendment can only reform the state-level redistricting process.
Why does your amendment focus not only on the mapping process criteria but on the commissioner selection as well?
While we believe mapping criteria are important, we also see tremendous public-interest and political value in establishing fair mapping and commissioner selection processes, particularly in a state like Illinois famous for political gamesmanship. There is strong public support for keeping all lobbyists and politicians out of the redistricting process, and for maintaining strong transparency.
Why do you give the Legislature any power?
The Illinois Constitution severely restricts what a citizens’ Constitutional amendment can do. For legal reasons, we were unable to completely remove the Legislature from the process. We have therefore taken great pains to restrict the power of the legislature in this process. Under the new system, legislators would work for Illinois citizens by minimizing partisan behavior across the aisle, and ensuring that the commission is diverse. In the end, the commission can only approve a map if at least two Republicans, two Democrats, and two unaffiliated members approve it.
Nonpartisan redistricting works in places like Iowa. Can it work in a diverse state like Illinois?
Illinois is indeed a diverse state with a unique, vibrant population. So are California, Arizona, New Jersey, and many other states that successfully draw their maps with independent commissions. We have learned from these other states, and spent two years soliciting the advice of diverse community-based groups in Illinois, along with civil rights experts across the country. We have collected the best ideas to create an amendment that will preserve the voting rights of minority communities in Illinois.
How do I sign the petition?
If you see one of our petition gatherers in your neighborhood, you can sign their petition so long as you are a registered Illinois voter. You can also request petitions from the campaign. This will enable you to collect signatures from your friends, family and neighbors. We need over 298,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, so we could use your help.
Who can sign a petition?
Any Illinois registered voter is eligible to sign.
How do I sign up to volunteer to circulate petitions?
Sign up here and we’ll be in touch with information on the circulation process.
Who can circulate petitions?
U.S. residents over 18 years of age may circulate petitions.
What is the easiest way for me to show my support?
How can I make a contribution to the campaign?