The fall season is upon us … and so is early voting.

No matter what party or political philosophy you adhere to, fair elections are the cornerstone of our government. The ability to choose our leaders and to decide important questions about how our community, state, and country are run is what sets us apart. It is our most important freedom and we must exercise and protect it.

Here in Illinois, protecting a fair election process begins with drawing fair legislative and congressional maps. Can an election truly be fair if the elected officials are the ones choosing their voters instead of the other way around? Of course not; but that’s the current system we have in place with those in power drawing specific district boundaries in order to guarantee the election outcomes they want.

This past spring, I co-sponsored House Resolution 995 that supports independent redistricting reform and advocates for a non-partisan map-making process for the upcoming redistricting cycle, which was unfortunately blocked from consideration by Speaker Madigan. The good news is that bi-partisan support in Illinois for fair maps continues to grow. According to a recent poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 72 percent of likely voters support the idea of an independent, non-partisan process for drawing district boundaries, while only 18 percent are opposed. The Simon Institute has been polling on this question since 2010 and the support for redistricting reform is currently at a record high. I will continue to work for this important reform until it is achieved, and I firmly believe that it is only a matter of time until that happens.

Preserving our fundamental freedoms is also dependent upon holding elected officials themselves to the highest ethical standards, and this too is a work in progress in the General Assembly. I am continuing to work on legislation to ensure elected officials fully file all required financial disclosures, complete required ethics and sexual harassment prevention training, and also are prohibited from voting on property tax issues from which they may professionally benefit. Here again, I believe it is only a matter of time.

Our fundamental right to participate in our government must never be taken for granted; it must be protected. You can only do that by making time to vote for the candidates and issues you believe in.

Editor’s Note / Here’s a link to PN’s Voter’s Guide, a list that features hopefuls running to serve Naperville in DuPage and Will counties, Springfield and Washington, D.C. The hyperlinks to websites included on the Voter’s Guide have been requested by the candidates or representatives from their campaigns. Thanks for being informed.