By Mary Matthews, League of Women Voters of Lake County
On a national, state, and local level, the League of Women Voters considers the redistricting process of paramount importance and one critical to democracy.
The League of Women Voters of Lake County was pleased with the Lake County Board's outreach to it and two other organizations: NAACP and MALDEF. However, given the impact that the results of this process will have over the next 10 years, we are disappointed with the Board's attempt to make their work transparent.
We encourage the Committee to engage in: more outreach, more communication with the public, and providing more opportunity for public input into the process.
There is very little redistricting information on the County's web site. Considering its importance, the Committee's redistricting work should be more visible and prominent on the website and include regular status reports and notice of upcoming meetings. We also suggest newspapers and other media be made aware of your schedule, purpose, and locations of future meetings.
While the demographer and lawyer were introduced at your last meeting, we would like to see more information about them made available to the public. Who are they? Do they have any political connections? The demographer was the same one who drew the maps 10 years ago, when the County was sued. What did he learn, what will he do differently? We would like to see more information about the people actively involved in the map drawing.
We were satisfied that the Committee voted to reduce the number of districts to 21. Since 1989, the League of Women Voters of Lake County has supported the idea of fewer districts. There was some implication that as two commissioners were retiring, the reduced number of districts could be easier to draw as their districts will be enclosed with others. This information is irrelevant to the approach the demographer should take.
During the meeting, Committee members often referred to districts by the name of the current commissioner. We would like to be assured that was only meant as a way to refer to a district, rather than using its district number. The demographer should not start the process with the current districts and move the lines according to the population changes.
He should start by dividing the county into 21 equal-sized districts and then move the lines according to population, community of interest, and other criteria. This may result in some new districts without a current commissioner residing within the new lines. We must remember that the districts are to be drawn for the voter to choose representation and not to protect a commissioner's job.
We suggest there be a number of meetings/hearings at different locations throughout Lake County, both during the day and evening so more people can be informed and involved. Residents, organizations, and public officials may want to view and comment on any proposed maps. As there was standing-room-only at the last meeting, a larger room is needed for Waukegan meetings.
Kane County has posted a draft map to the Internet. Lake County should consider the same.
The League looks forward to working with the Committee and other interested parties in providing the best possible outcome for the residents of Lake County.