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dir="ltr">The Effingham County Board passed a resolution this week to ask county voters if the Illinois House should have three legislators per House district, with no more than two being from one political party, instead of single-member districts.
That would revert the Illinois House back to 177 members, the way it was before the Cutback Amendment of the 1980s that dropped the number of representatives to 118. The effort wouldn't change the state Senate.
Effingham County Board Vice Chairman David Campbell said the move would cost taxpayers a more in pay for legislators and staff members.
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“But the shift in control would offset the cost, we think it would bring the two sides closer together and be able to negotiate better deals,” Campbell said.
He said the change was needed to address the state's underfunded pensions and other issues.
Kent Redfield worked for the legislature before the so-called Cutback Amendment of the 80s. He's now a politics professor and longtime political observer. He said multi-member districts would be more representative.
“Single-member districts and extreme gerrymanders tend to drive the [political] parties more to the extremes rather than to the middle,” Redfield said.
While he said multi-member House districts wouldn’t do away with gerrymandering, or drawing political boundaries to favor one political party over another, it would make gerrymandering more difficult. And such a move would give more representation to the political minority.
Campbell said he and others are already in talks with other counties looking to pass similar resolutions with the hope of a statewide campaign to generate enough voter signatures to put such a question on a statewide ballot. If that happens, it would need 60 percent support among voters.
Redfield said if that effort was successful, it would change the dynamic of one-party domination in the Illinois House and make things more representative. But, he said it would be an uphill battle.
“Reform is always a tough sell because the people that care the most and understand it the best are the people that are advantaged by the status quo,” Redfield said.
He also said the Cutback Amendment was an easy sell in the 1980s because supporters talked about getting rid of politicians and saving money. He even recalled that when supporters delivered petition signatures to the Illinois State Board of Elections for the ballot question, they put the binders of signatures sheets in a coffin “celebrating the death of 59 politicians.”
“That’s an easy hook,” Redfield said. “We’re getting rid of politicians. Unfortunately, the debate never got down to ... what representation really means and how you effectively set up a system where constituents and legislators talk to each other and legislators talk to each other.”
Campbell said that the Cutback Amendment was passed to the detriment of voters.
“It is mob rule,” Campbell said, marking the difference between a democracy and a republic. “If we had the republic [form of government] all voices would be heard. It wouldn’t be as one-sided as it is now.”