BLOOMINGTON — After three meetings and hours of public comments about the McLean County redistricting process, First Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher Spanos quashed many people’s hopes at one option to reconfigure the board this decade.
The McLean County Board currently seats two members in each of its 10 districts, but some want to see that increased to a 20-district system with one member representing each, as the board must redraw its district maps based on new population data from the 2020 census.
Spanos said shifting from a two-member system to a one-member system without letting voters decide on a ballot is “unconstitutional.”
Reading sections of the Illinois Constitution at the conclusion of Monday’s McLean County Executive Committee special meeting, Spanos said only the General Assembly can provide the different methods for the makeup of county board districts, which counties then choose from. After a county board selects its district method, it can only be changed through a referendum.
With no election coming before the July 1 map-making deadline, changing the number of county board members per district isn't possible in this decade's process.
McLean County supervisors in 1971 chose the multi-member district system.
“The county board in any year since, including 2021, does not have the authority to change the method of election absent a referendum,” Spanos said.
Board member Elizabeth Johnston proposed a 20-district method, which has large support from urban residents. Patrick Cortesi, chairman of the McLean County Democrats, said Monday night that more districts and more members equal more representation.
Some rural residents, meanwhile, have backed plans for fewer districts, such as five, with two-member representation.
Redistricting is a process that can seem perplexing and irrelevant to voters. But how Illinois lawmakers redraw the state's legislative maps over the next few months could have an enormous impact on the power of your vote.
Anna Ziegler, assistant manager for the McLean County Farm Bureau, spoke in support of fewer districts. She said the farm bureau supports the board maintaining 20 members, but recommends it changes from 10 districts to four to seven districts.
“We believe this empowers each voter, both urban and rural, to vote for a larger percentage of the board,” Ziegler said. “Instead of every voter voting for just two county board members, it could be three, four or five. We think this increases each district’s representation on the county’s seven main committees and we think that’s critically important because most of the work of the county board happens at the committee level.”
The county rules sub-committee will meet Thursday to recommend a plan to the board’s executive committee, which will then make a recommendation to the county board.
McLean County Board Chairman John McIntyre said the executive committee will have public hearings regarding the map redrawing process on May 18 and May 25.
A final plan must be adopted before July 1.