SPRINGFIELD – A group trying to put a remap reform amendment on the fall ballot said it is on target to meet its goal of collecting signatures, but won’t say how many have been collected.
Yes for Independent Maps needs to collect 300,000 valid signatures by May 4 in order for the proposed amendment to appear on the ballot in November.
“We are well on track to achieve our goal before the deadline,” Michael Kolenc, campaign manager for the organization, told The State Journal-Register editorial board Wednesday.
However, when asked just how many signatures the organization has collected so far, Kolenc declined to be specific.
“We’re just choosing not to publicize the numbers at this point,” he said. “We’re working with hundreds of volunteers across the state. We’re very happy with where we are.”
Yes for Independent Maps wants to change the process used in Illinois to draw new legislative district boundaries every 10 years to reflect changes in population.
Critics contend that under the current process, boundaries are drawn to protect incumbents and create safe districts for one party or the other.
“This will take politics out of the process,” Kolenc said. “It is not hyperbole to say maps are drawn behind closed doors. Right now, there is no openness, there is no transparency, and they are drawn 100 percent based on partisan politics.”
The amendment would require that maps be drawn by an appointed, 11-member commission. Elected officials, state employees, state or federal lobbyists, state contractors and immediate family members of those people would not be eligible to serve.
A complex selection process would be established that includes an initial screening by the auditor general’s office to cut the field of applicants to 100. In California, which adopted the same system, some 30,000 people applied to serve on the commission, Kolenc said.
The final makeup of the commission would include four Democrats, four Republicans, and three independents representing all areas of the state. Under the plan, some members would be picked by lottery and others by party leaders. The commission would have to hold hearings around the state before adopting new legislative maps.
“It is a very complex system that is meant to put faith and trust, transparency and independence back into the drawing of state maps,” Kolenc said.
The effort has drawn support from a wide range of individuals and organizations, including Common Cause Illinois, the League of Women Voters, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
Even if the organization collects enough valid signatures, Kolenc said, he anticipates there will be a court challenge to keep the amendment off the ballot. The organization is continuing fundraising efforts both to finance the petition-gathering effort, to have funds to fight a court case, and ultimately to mount a campaign to get voters to approve the amendment.
During the last 3 months of 2013, records show Yes for Independent Maps reported raising more than $490,000 and spending about $329,000. The organization ended the year with slightly more than $201,000 in its campaign account.
Among contributions were $100,000 from financial managers Ken and Anne Griffin, $40,000 from the state Chamber of Commerce, $25,000 from the IMA, and $10,000 from Jerry Reinsdorf, Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner.