The drive for reforming the drawing of congressional maps has gained a supporter who is hoping to ride a reformist challenge against a long-time incumbent.
Independent Maps seeks to get its initiative on the 2016 state ballot to create an independent redistricting commission in Illinois to determine congressional district boundaries. For years, politicians have drawn the lines. In a state such as Illinois, it can even be done without input from the opposition party.
State Senator Kyle McCarter, who is currently challenging U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (IL-15) in the Republican primary, said it is essential to “[l]et people draw the maps rather than the politicians.” In an interview, McCarter said the commission may be the answer:
“Such a commission would remove or minimize political considerations from the redistricting process. It would bring fairness and objectivity to the process and improve the representation of citizens through legislative districts that are more representative of the people who live there.”
Creating independently-drawn congressional maps is a cause even President Barack Obama, in his final State of the Union address, supported.
“We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around,” the president said in his final annual speech to Congress on January 12.
Independent Maps Chair Dennis Fitzsimmons, commenting on Obama’s upcoming trip to Illinois to address the General Assembly, said, “It would be the perfect opportunity to repeat his call to ‘change the system to reflect our better selves’ and change to a fair and impartial system of drawing maps.”
The campaign for creating an independent political map has had a tumultuous ride in Illinois. After collecting a sufficient number of signatures in 2014, large numbers of those signatures were ruled ineligible and the effort was postponed for another year.
Independent Maps has collected more than 483,000 petition signatures. If the wording of the amendment is ruled constitutional, which it was not in 2014, the group may be in a good position to see their ballot initiative become a reality.
Kyle McCarter faces an uphill battle prior to the March 15 Republican primary. An early poll from January of likely GOP voters showed Shimkus leading 65-13. McCarter has had difficulties disseminating his name throughout a district his opponent won handily in 2014. Although McCarter has made term limits a focus of his campaign, attaching his name to a genuine effort to change how politics is done in Illinois may add fuel to his bid in the weeks leading up to the primary.