District split could confuse voters

In a year filled with elections, state ones have caused their share of a stir.

A district remapping earlier this spring has left Carbondale split between the 58th and 59th senate districts. South University Avenue is the new district divider, which means voters on the city’s east side will see different names than west-side voters on their state senate ballot.

Pat Kelly, a volunteer associated with the senatorial campaign, said the lines are redrawn every 10 years by the party in charge of the legislature, and that causes misunderstanding for those who plan to vote.

“A lot of people don’t even know which district they’re voting in until they get to the polls,” Kelly said. “It’s tough for people. They don’t really know who they’re voting for.”

Kelly said the district revisions now have Brush Towers and Thompson Point voting in separate precincts, which will cause even more issues for student voting. He said students often have a particularly difficult time getting involved in local elections because of a lack of familiarity with the region and their status as temporary residents.

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SOURCE: ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION WEBSITE

“The cycle I’ve seen from students is that, when they first get here, they don’t care,” Kelly said. “By the time they care, they’re leaving.”

Michael Bigler, a Democrat running for state senate in the 58th district, said it is important for students to take interest and understand how this affects them.

“Students are going to have to educate themselves on which district they are in,” he said. “Regardless of what district they are in, they should get involved.”

Bigler said it can be difficult to campaign in cities such as Carbondale and Anna where district lines split the residential areas.

“It’s a strange way to run,” he said. “My headquarters are in Carbondale, but if (voters) are on the east side of town, they can’t vote for me.”

Dave Luechtefeld, a Republican and the incumbent senator for the 58th district, said the legislature redrew the lines in favor of Democrats because the party controls the Illinois House of Representatives, Senate and Governorship. He said district revisions are frequent throughout the state to ensure the controlling party remains in power.

“The Chicago political machine redrew the lines to get rid of some of the legislatures,” he said.

Luechtefeld said the 58th and 59th districts are not the only ones unsure of where they align. As a result of the district changes, he said many people across the state might be left wondering who their candidates will be in the November elections.

He said 80 percent of the 58th district is still in tact, however, and he is confident his past approach to campaigning will not be greatly affected. He said the majority of his voter base is still able to vote for him.

“I will try to continue to support the district I have supported for a long time,” he said. “Hopefully I have developed some trust in (them).”

Representatives from the 59th district could not be reached after two phone calls by press time.

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