Local leaders file lawsuit against the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment

By WEEK Reporter

May 1, 2014 Updated May 1, 2014 at 8:22 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Thousands of Illinois residents worked for months to change the way Illinois Government works. They pounded the pavement to stop the partisan bickering and change the way politicians are elected. Now, they face a lawsuit.

"Yes! for Independent Maps" is a grassroots group trying to put an end to what they claim is "gerrymandering." The group sent a truckload of petitions to Springfield Thursday afternoon. The truck carried more 500,000 petitions on 1,300 of paper to Springfield for review.

The amendment creates a new---independent--redistricting commission to draw district maps. The appointed commissioners would be "neutral"--no public officials or lobbyists.

Leaders from the "Yes! for Independent Maps" grassroots initiative say they have been working on this amendment since August. However, another group of state and community leaders, a handful of which are from Peoria have filed a lawsuit to stop the proposal from making the ballot.

They say the proposal does not follow the proper constitutional steps to create an amendment.

One plaintiff says the system, as it is in the status quo, is fair because the drawings allow to include neighborhoods and areas as a whole. She says this new proposal would separate neighborhood voices that are stronger together.

"Minorities have come a long way, and this proposal would undo all of our efforts," said Jackie Petty, trustee for the Peoria Park District Board. "Take for example the south side of Peoria--that should be all in the same district. What if these people just come along, and draw the line right down the middle and split them up? It weakens our voice as a community."

She also says the proposal has no way of keeping elected commissioners accountable if they do not do an adequate job.

Petty hopes the lawsuit will keep the proposed amendment from making it to the November ballot.

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