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Legislators on campus for important meeting

Illinois is flush with political corruption.
In an attempt to battle a part of that, 13 state senators will be on campus Tuesday afternoon for the third of four meetings aimed at overhauling the way the state draws Congressional Districts.
The senators’ first two meetings addressed the history, process and legal principles of redistricting. The one next week will present new proposals, including one created by the Illinois Reform Commission.
“We really have one of the worst systems of drawing federal and state legislative maps in the country,” said Brad McMillian, executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service. “We have some of the most gerrymandered districts in the country.”
One look at the state’s Congressional Districts proves McMillan’s point.
The 11th district, for example, consists of most of central and southern Will County near Chicago. The district then runs a small section of land roughly along the path of Interstate 55 into McLean County. This was done because the mother of the former representative, Jerry Weller, lived near Normal. The 4th Congressional District connects two of Chicago’s Hispanic neighborhoods, which are connected by a narrow strip of land following Interstate 294, creating a sort of U shape.
The gerrymandering, the term for drawing a district’s boundaries based on its residents political affiliations, is bipartisan, McMillan said.
“These are drawn in secret, behind closed doors, to create either very safe Democratic or very safe Republican districts,” he said. “They are not drawn to promote good government, they’re drawn to protect political interests.”
The process for deciding who will draw the districts is rather skewed.
“When the legislature can’t agree on a map, which they never do, two names are put into a hat,” McMillan said. “The secretary of state then pulls a name out of the hat, and which ever party that person is in is the party that controls the drawing of the districts.”
The meeting runs from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Hartman Center, and students are encouraged to attend, even if they can’t stay the entire 3 hours.
“It’s unique to have 13 members of the legislature on campus to talk about such an important issue,” McMillan said. “It’s a good opportunity for students to attend a hearing on an issue like this one.”