October 08, 2009

Senate Redistricting Committee to meet at SIUC

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Illinois Senate’s Redistricting Committee will meet next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale to gather additional public input on how the state approaches the redistricting process.

The bipartisan 13-member committee, chaired by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, will gather input beginning at noon, Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Morris Library’s John Guyon Auditorium. The hearings are open to the public. The session will likely last two-and-one-half to three hours.

Witness slips will be available at the hearing, and the public is welcome to testify at the end of the formal session. A hearing agenda will soon be posted at www.senatedem.ilga.gov/index.php/legislation/redistricting.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the hearings. Media members will need to sign in at the hearing. For more information, contact Ron Holmes, who is with the Illinois Senate Democrats’ communications staff at 217/782-0571.

This is the fourth of an anticipated five hearings throughout the state, according to Ron Holmes, a member of the Illinois Senate Democrats’ communications staff. Hearings began in July, with prior hearings in Chicago, Springfield and Peoria. A second hearing in Springfield, possibly later this month, is also likely.

Redistricting happens after a census, which occurs every 10 years. Previous hearings included a look at Illinois’ redistricting history, census data, legal requirements, and redistricting processes in other states.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is hosting the event. Anticipated witnesses include Director David Yepsen, former institute director Mike Lawrence, and John S. Jackson, a visiting professor at the institute.

“There is a lot of controversy in the way Illinois draws district lines for legislative and congressional districts,” Yepsen said. “Many people want to find a different and better way to do it. It is difficult for legislators to do that because it amounts to them having to do surgery on themselves. Doctors don’t do that and politicians have a hard time doing it to.”

While it is a natural tendency in politics for legislators to have districts that will help them, it can lead to gerrymandering, incumbent protection and manipulation, Yepsen said.

The institute several years ago provided two alternative redistricting proposals to the state’s current system. A PDF question-and-answer on legislative redistricting reform in Illinois and the institute’s proposals is available on a link at paulsimoninstitute.org/.