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posted: 2/9/2018 1:00 AM

Small business takes a stand against gerrymandering

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  • Elliot Richardson

    Elliot Richardson


A vibrant small business community is a vital part of a strong economy. Indeed, when small businesses grow they create jobs, strengthen local communities and put money back into a state's economy.

Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are reluctant to expand when they are not confident in their government or ability to weigh in on policies that impact their businesses. This is why small business owners of all political stripes are taking up the fight to end gerrymandering in Illinois.

Gerrymandering is the process by which partisan politicians draw legislative districts to benefit their own party and political futures. It undermines the principles of free and fair elections by carving, slicing and dicing map boundaries -- essentially letting politicians pick their voters. This has resulted in far too few elections being competitive or even contested in Illinois.

More than half of our state's legislative general elections were uncontested in 2016. The majority of other House and Senate races were not close, in part, because partisan mapmaking created an uneven playing field. Let's be perfectly clear: partisan gerrymandering is wrong and unpopular regardless of which party controls the process.

A recent poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, found that 72 percent of Illinois voters favor an independent commission to create legislative districts. Previous efforts to drive a ballot referendum to create an independent map commission in Illinois gained significant public support, but were stymied by legal challenges. However, a strong coalition of organizations supporting redistricting reform refuses to give up.

The Illinois Redistricting Collaborative is advocating for legislation in the General Assembly to amend the Illinois constitution and create an independent commission to draw legislative districts in our state. To become law, this measure must be supported by three-fifths of both chambers of the General Assembly and approved by the voters. This will be a grass-roots effort fueled by the public, including many in the small business community.

It is critical that the redistricting reform effort ensure a nonpartisan and transparent process through an independent commission. The process must also comply with the U.S. Constitution and federal and state voting rights laws. The end result should not diminish the voice of any community, rather, it should ensure all Illinoisans have the chance to cast meaningful votes.

It is imperative that when small business owners and their employees engage with legislators, it can produce meaningful results. One way to make that happen is by ensuring the votes cast by those supporting the small business community matter.

Let's end gerrymandering in Illinois. This will help restore confidence in our government, make elected officials accountable to their constituents and ensure more votes count in our state.

• Elliot Richardson is founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.