New Law Protects Voting Rights of Minorities

March 09, 2011

A redistricting law signed this week was created to protect minority voting rights in communities throughout Illinois.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 3976 to help prevent a neighborhood’s political make-up from being weakened by being divided into multiple legislative districts.

Pat Quinn signing legislation

Governor Pat Quinn signed the law in Chicago's Chinatown, a neighborhood that will benefit from the redistricting legislation.

The law creates the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011, which allows legislative districts to be drawn to create crossover, coalition or influence districts.

What are those?

*Crossover district: A community in which a racial or language minority group makes up less than a majority of the voting age population but is large enough to elect the candidate of its choice with some support from larger groups.

*Coalition district: A community in which several racial or language minority groups can join together to elect a candidate of their choice.

*Influence district: A community in which a racial or language minority can influence the outcome of an election, even if its preferred candidate cannot be elected.

“Ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard in government is crucial to our democracy,” said Governor Quinn. “This new law will help ensure that racial and language minority groups throughout our state are able to elect leaders accountable to their interests and concerns.”

Quinn signed the bill in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, a community that is currently divided into four city wards, three state senate districts, four state representative districts and two county board districts. Because the neighborhood is divided into so many districts, the area has little influence in government and its interests are underrepresented.

The new bill also requires the legislature to hold a minimum of four public hearings before passing any future redistricting plans.

“As we move forward with the redistricting process, this important new law gives us the tools and public input needed to create a map that is fair and representative of the people of Illinois,” said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat from Chicago who co-sponsored the bill.

The new law goes into effect immediately.

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