Illinois state Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb)
Cook County citizens are calling for an independent district map-drawing process after state Rep. Norine Hammond (R-Macomb) issued a statement last week condemning the state's use of gerrymandering.
Majority-party legislators in Illinois are responsible for creating electoral maps throughout the state. The privilege has been abused in many states around the country when one party establishes its own district boundaries in efforts to win elections. This is known as gerrymandering, and Illinois is no stranger to the process.
Nehemiah Family Fellowship pastor Rich Martinez previously spoke against gerrymandering in 2014 and now has signed the recent HJRCA 10 petition that aims to take map drawing power away from legislators and give it to independent commissions.
“Citizens should have the right and authority to select who represents them and the various bodies of government. Now, when there’s gerrymandering, that’s impeded,” Martinez told North Cook News. “I’m pleased to hear they’re calling for an establishment of an independent, non-partisan commission. Certainly taking [authority] out of the power brokers, especially in this state, is very welcoming and good news.”
Despite believing in the idea of independent map drawing, Martinez expressed concerns of “how that independent, non-partisan commission becomes assembled.” Illinois’ Constitution may have to be amended in order for any commissions to come into fruition.
"Our democracy is built upon the premise that voters choose their elected officials," Hammond said in her statement. "But in Illinois, a partisan map-drawing process that allows majority-party lawmakers to draw their own maps and essentially choose their voters is used. This procedure protects incumbent legislators and solidifies majority-party control. The process, known as 'gerrymandering,' stifles democracy and undermines our representative form of government."
Martinez also said how gerrymandering negatively impacts voters’ decisions and prevents many state politicians from running in elections.
“We want to have good citizens seek public office for the right reasons, and that’s really to serve the people,” Martinez said. “Unfortunately, when the powers that be control all these mechanisms, it’s not for the benefits of the citizen, it’s really for the benefit of that particular establishment and them maintaining control and them being able to raise funds and them being able to do the things they want to do. I think the voters lose out on that particular process. Hopefully is this [petition] is able to proceed forward…then certainly people would be afforded the opportunity to have their say, and even in that in the referendum, it’s the opportunity for the electors to exercise their voice.”
Martinez is calling for more Illinois communities to be aware of this issue and sign the HJRCA 10 petition in order for this motion to pass.
“The voters will have an opportunity to voice their support for this and the amending of the constitution via their own vote,” Martinez said. “It really requires the elector to be informed, to be educated. How much do average voters understand the negative impact of gerrymandering?”
Democratic Illinois U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Republican state Sens. Paul Schimpf and Dale Fowler and several Republican state House representatives were contacted, but none were available for comment.