As primary election day approaches in Illinois, one group that is attempting to reform congressional maps is looking to see their agenda become a reality. Independent Map Amendment, the group leading the charge to change the way maps are drawn in Illinois, is using the last few days before the March 15 primary to build on its success.
The group needed to collect slightly more than 290,000 valid signatures. The group reached that benchmark months ago. However, last year, chairman Dennis FitzSimons said:
"To be absolutely certain we will meet the Illinois Constitution's requirement of 290,216 valid signatures, we're going to collect more than twice that number. Defenders of the current partisan system will not be able to overcome those numbers."
The reason to collect an excessive number of signatures is driven by the expectation it will be challenged by the political class. In 2014, longtime speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, led a legal effort to maintain the partisan drawing of congressional districts. Madigan won the legal battle over the wording of the amendment as well as the validity of many of the signatures.
As of this writing, Independent Map Amendment has collected approximately 520,000 signatures. They are also looking to bolster their reservoir of signatures by having volunteers collect signatures at polling places on Tuesday. The group's campaign manager, Dave Mellet said:
"We have hundreds of volunteers ready to cover as many polling places as possible, and some are even taking vacation days to maximize their time at polling places."
The Independent Map Amendment is also looking to capitalize on public sentiment for reforming politics in Illinois. In a recent survey conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, nearly two-thirds of respondents supported the movement to reform congressional maps:
"Supporters of a change argue the current system is gerrymandering because it allows state lawmakers to draw their own district lines and they argue it would be better for an independent group to do it."
Although more Illinois voters are interested in campaign finance reform and term limits, the campaign to reform congressional maps has broad support in the state and may soon be ready to clear an important hurdle.