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Reform and Renewal

Friday, Feb 26, 2010

* The Senate Dems kinda-sorta unveiled their redistricting plan yesterday. What I mean is, they held a press conference, but didn’t introduce an actual bill

Under [the SDem] plan the legislature would draw the new map. If they chose to de-nest the districts, not have the same districts for the Senate and the House, then each chamber would draw its own map and pass it with a three-fifths vote. If they decided to stick to the current nested system, then the General Assembly would create one map that would pass as a bill and require the governor’s signature.

If the legislature cannot agree on a map, or maps, by June 30, 2011, a commission, appointed by the legislative leaders would get the job. The leaders would each appoint seven members to the 14-member commission to create a map for approval by the General Assembly. If that doesn’t work, the Democrat’s plan mirrors the Republican one in the creation of a special master to draw the map. That master would be chosen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and a justice of the other party.

The major difference between the parties’ plans is who draws the first map. In the Democrat’s plan the legislature does it, while in the Republican plan it is a commission appointed by the leaders. This is the point on which it seems neither side is willing to compromise.

Sen. Raoul was pretty up-front about the GOP/reformer demands that legislators be entirely removed from the mapmaking process

…Trying to take politics out of the process is a non-starter, [Raoul] said.

“I think we should be honest about that. The redistricting process is inherently political,” Raoul said.

That’s a fundamental difference.

Here’s some video from yesterday’s presser


The Republicans were not kind in their criticism

“The Democrat plan allows the General Assembly to pick its voters in every district,” said State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

Sen. Righter also claimed that the new SDem idea was actually worse than the current redistricting apparatus. Watch


* In other reform news, I’m always a bit torn when it comes to minimum signature requirements. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that would-be candidates have to knock on lots of doors in the rain and snow to get on the ballot. Putting together a decent petition drive can be a great tune-up for the upcoming campaign.

On its face, a bill requiring aldermanic candidates to gather 500 signatures doesn’t sound too horrific. That ain’t a lot. So, at first, this Progress Illinois piece seemed a bit off

We recently stumbled across a bill (HB6000) introduced by State Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) that would make it a whole lot harder for new candidates to get on ballots in 2011. Lyons is attempting to bump up the number of required signatures on nominating petitions in Chicago elections to 500. Compared the current requirement — a mere 2 percent of the votes cast in the ward during the preceding election year — enacting the measure would raise the threshold in every ward. In some, the increase would be dramatic; last election cycle, for example, a 22nd Ward candidate only needed 87 names.

87 names? Sheesh. That seems way too low.

But, PI goes on to make a good point…

There’s another catch too. Lyons’ measure — which passed out of committee this week and is headed to the House floor for a vote — seeks to codify a state statue that ensures each voter can only ink one candidate’s petition. That’s currently the lay of the state election law, Jim Allen from the Chicago Board of Elections points out, but it has been routinely challenged because of a gray area in another state statute known as the Revised Cities and Villages Act of 1941. That, of course, would be eliminated by writing the rule into the amended statue.

Voters will be the big losers if the measure is adopted, David Morrison from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform tells us. “It really puts a terrible burden on petition signers,” he says. “And in small wards, [candidates] could rack up 2,000 or 3,000 signatures and there would be no one left to sign.”

Well, not quite “no one,” but point well taken. The bill removes the cap on the maximum number of signatures that can be submitted at once, so the proposal could encourage vacuuming up as many sigs as humanly possible.

Therefore, I actually have to agree with the Tribune editorial board today

Could they at least lay off the crass attempts to protect the members of the City Council? Come on. Stuff the Lyons bill. It’s an insult to your constituents.

* Today’s other Tribune editorial, however, is a bit silly. The Mother Ship is just beside Herself with rage at the lack of progress on ethics reforms

Instead we’ll just point out that it’s February — late February — and lawmakers have shown little interest in finishing what they barely started last year.

Yeah. It’s February. The House’s 3rd Reading deadline for House bills is March 26th - a month away.

The Tribune also claimed that not much reform was passed last year. FOIA reform, contracting reform and campaign contribution caps - no matter how leaky - were all enacted last year.

And as far as the caps are concerned, how did they work out for the Tribune’s favorite US Senate candidate David Hoffman? The white knight reformer had to mostly self fund because he found out the hard way that outsiders have a real problem raising lots of money under the capped federal system. Heck, the Tribune opposes caps anyway on principle, except for last year, when the editorial board raged about how the state reformers’ cap plan was being blocked, even though the Tribune didn’t like the idea in the first place.

Sigh.

And what about this year? I doubt any of the reformers thought they could reopen the campaign finance reform stuff this session. Their focus right now is redistricting reform. They’ll most likely get back to the finance reform after there’s actually been an election under the changes enacted last year.

* Ever the “me too” little brother, the Daily Herald edit board also raged and rambled about an allegedly stalled campaign finance reform bill today.

Somebody apparently did a great job yesterday of ginning up these two papers.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


22 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:07 am:

    The chance for siginficant redistricting changes was lost with Con-Con. It’s just not human nature to give up power voluntarily.


  2. - ZC - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:15 am:

    Why can’t they raise the minimum sig requirement to 500, but drop the requirement that you can’t sign more than one aldermanic petition?

    That latter one is more worrisome. A big ward organization might be able to strike off quite a few of a challenger’s signatures that way, and the maddening thing is the challenger simply would not know, how much of a problem this might be. Besides, why shouldn’t a voter be allowed to put two people up against one another in a primary, and then decide which one he / she prefers?


  3. - Sacks Romana - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:15 am:

    The signature requirement for state rep districts is 500 signatures. I’m fairly sure that it’s unconstitutional to have a smaller district (ward) have the same or higher signature requirement as a larger district.

    Also, with all signature gathering, particularly for Chicago aldermanic candidates, you have to remember the challenge process. Collecting 500 valid signatures from registered voters from within the confusingly drawn ward borders really translates into 800-1000 signatures in order to survive a challenge. 87 in the 22nd might seem low, but is the current system really so broken that we’re going to multiply the threshold by 500%? Who does it serve to raise the threshold? Who are we afraid of getting on the ballot?


  4. - OdysseusVL - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:21 am:

    I am a resident of Kwame’s district and enthusiastically support him, but he’s completely wrong on the redistricting issue. The current map systems encourages the worst in partisanship. It needs to go. We do need to take politics out of that process.


  5. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:24 am:

    ===Why can’t they raise the minimum sig requirement to 500, but drop the requirement that you can’t sign more than one aldermanic petition?===

    Isn’t the answer kinda obvious?


  6. - VanillaMan - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:25 am:

    The current system is simply undemocratic. It has to go.


  7. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:35 am:

    Let’s be upfront about the facts.

    Chicago wards are districted to contain 60,000 residents. There are a total of 1,444,277 registered voters in Chicago…that works out to about 29000 registered voters per ward.

    500 signatures is, on average, 1.7 percent of registered voters.

    On its face, the idea that’s onerous, or that challengers are going to be boxed out by incumbents gathering 3000 signatures (leaving them only 25,000 voters to choose from) is absurd.

    A much more legitimate concern is how the flat proposal affects wards with low voter registration, particularly Latino wards.

    The 22nd Ward (Munoz) for example, has such a low signature requirement because there are only 15,643 registered voters there.

    The 14th Ward (Burke), has only 13,778 registered voters.

    And the 12th Ward (Cardenas) is the smallest ward in the city, with only 13,584 registered voters.

    The 500 signature requirement there seems a little problematic. But still, hardly insurmountable.


  8. - 47th Ward - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:36 am:

    While I applaud your brevity, how is it undemocratic VM? Should voters approve the map? Can you please briefly explain what you mean?


  9. - Irish - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:49 am:

    I know I am wasting my breath but any work on the redistricting should not be allowed until the State’s fiscal crisis is addressed. However knowing how this GA works the Redistricting will become the issue that consumes all of the Legislator’s time until they adjourn. They will toss out an interim budget like last year and go home.

    Meanwhile the collapse has started. The company that leases copiers to the State is now starting to repossess machines because of nonpayment. Let’s hope they get the GA members machines next. If it doesn’t send a message at least it will cut down on the frivolous legislation.


  10. - Rich Miller - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 11:50 am:

    ===knowing how this GA works the Redistricting will become the issue that consumes all of the Legislator’s time until they adjourn.===

    Fortunately, any constitutional changes must be voted on both chambers by early May.


  11. - seriously? - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 12:14 pm:

    Dale Righter even has a problem with Republican voters voting in their own state party. He voted against SB600 last year.

    Now he’s supposed to be some kind of protector of voting rights for the people? Give us a break.


  12. - dave - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 12:24 pm:

    **Fortunately, any constitutional changes must be voted on both chambers by early May.**

    Which is about when they plan on adjourning. :)


  13. - IrishPirate - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 12:52 pm:

    I need dress up like a clown, get me a go kart, and run over Rep. Joe Lyons.(Note to literalists, I don’t own a clown suit or go kart so Lyons is safe)

    That is truly a horrid proposal. Let’s protect the incumbent alderman because they are doing such a fine job!

    What machine candidates would do is try to go all “Bounty towel” with signatures and soak up as many as possible.

    If any legislators vote for this, if it comes up for a vote, then they better listen carefully for small engine motors sounds in the distance.


  14. - moron - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 1:04 pm:

    HB6000 is make-work corporate welfare for the petition challenge industry


  15. - Phil Huckelberry - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 1:12 pm:

    The 500 signature requirement for aldermanic races is completely ridiculous. It doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

    Some wards have more voters than other wards. This is a known fact. So a flat requirement, rather than a percentage, is necessarily harder where there are fewer voters. That means minority wards, especially Latino wards.

    In fact, the requirement would be so onerous in Latino wards, that it would amount to more than 5% of the total number of people who voted in the last *presidential* election, let alone the last mayoral election. The Supreme Court has established 5% as a limit for such petitions, so this would definitely be unconstitutional on those grounds.

    Frankly, Rich, I don’t think you get how hard 500 signatures is in a place like the 12th or 22nd Ward. That’s 500 *valid* signatures. You know how the Machine will come in and rip apart any petition that isn’t to their liking. In an area where voters are still intimidated, it’s that much harder to find people to sign at all, and you’d have to collect at least 1,000 signatures to be safe - and then they’d have to be signatures from people that the alderman didn’t already get his hands on.

    Is there any evidence whatsoever that this law is necessary and would help government? Of course not, because it’s only about stifling competition. They know it, and you know it too.


  16. - VanillaMan - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 2:47 pm:

    While I applaud your brevity, how is it undemocratic VM? Should voters approve the map? Can you please briefly explain what you mean?

    Redistricting is a political process left in the hands of the legislatures. It is a case of allowing the fox to watch the chicken coops. There is a conflict of personal interest here.

    Thanks to computers, this process has gotten to a point where the legislators are no longer basing their decisions on a map. They are basing their decisions on a computer database. Legislators are choosing their voter base thanks to modern technology. We can no longer allow this kind of abuse because we’ve reached a tipping point. If this was an annual event, we would have seen reform by now.

    Had we’d been able to see into the future, we would have taken this power from the legislators and handled it differently.

    What we have now is simply undemocratic, in that legislators are picking voters - not the other way around as intended.


  17. - 47th Ward - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 3:01 pm:

    ===What we have now is simply undemocratic, in that legislators are picking voters - not the other way around as intended.===

    I don’t disagree with your complaints about the current system, but “undemocratic” isn’t the best term to use. Voters elect the legislators who draw the map, the process is spelled out in a Constitution approved by the voters. These are inherently democratic processes.

    If instead you described it as out of date, dysfunctional, inadequate, troubling, ridiculous or something similar, I’d be in absolute agreement with you.

    Thanks and have a good weekend VM.


  18. - VanillaMan - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 4:38 pm:

    For you and I, that isn’t so bad.


  19. - Obamarama - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 4:53 pm:

    What motivation does the Speaker have to reform the redistricting process in any way other than to benefit Democrats further?

    The public doesn’t care about redistricting, at all. A 2006 Pew survey (most recent I could find) found that 83% of respondents were either satisfied with the current model or had no opinion at all on the matter. They just don’t care. It hasn’t been spelled out how it affects them or what other options exist.

    As a Democrat, I hope that we can get a map drawn in the GA and pass that bad boy through before the June 30th deadline. If only Democrats could find a way to out-maneuver the powerhouse coalition of reform groups and the ILGOP…

    “Hey what’s that over there?” BAM! Supermajority in both houses. Thanks for playing. See you in 2021. Bring Lincoln’s hat just in case.


  20. - Jimmy Ballgame - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 4:53 pm:

    As I understand it, the Senate Dems’ plan would be based on HJRCA 44 from two years ago, which came from a Paul Simon Institute idea. This passed the House and was picked up in the Senate by none other than Dale Righter as chief sponsor.

    So either Dale Righter hijacked the bill in 2008 so he could sit on it and kill it, which is the oh so reform like thing to do. Or Righter has done a complete 180 here, and a plan that he thought was good enough to sponsor himself just two years ago is complete garbage today. Worse that what is done now, he said.

    Either way, can the self-righteous and hypocritical reform talk, Righter. I’m not buying.


  21. - Obamarama - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 4:54 pm:

    The Pew survey was national for what it’s worth.


  22. - Chicago Cynic - Friday, Feb 26, 10 @ 5:25 pm:

    Joe Lyons is a nice guy but this is ridiculous. As someone who has been involved in many petition drives, I agree that 500 sigs, even in Latino wards, is perfectly reasonable. But they REALLY need to throw out the “you can only sign one petition” requirement. That’s just absurd.

    Frankly, I differ from most reformers in that I think reasonable signature requirements are absolutely worthwhile. Why should someone with a whim but no means and no organization get on the ballot just because they say so. If they haven’t thought this through and worked on it, they ain’t going to win.

    Requiring effort is good. Tilting the system so that only incumbents and organization candidates is not.


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