Effort to End Gerrymandering in Illinois Officially Dead

The Illinois Supreme Court late Thursday evening ruled that the question of map drawing cannot appear before the voters on the November ballot. The process will remain in the hands of state power brokers like House Speaker Michael Madigan.

This ruling upholds the lower court ruling, tossing this question off of the November ballot. It ends a yearslong effort led by people like Bill Daley, former Tribune chief Dennis Fitzsimmons and others, after they had received hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to get it on the ballot. It would have created a commission to draw legislative maps – the complaint now is that maps are gerrymandered to benefit the political party in power – because that’s who gets to draw the maps every 10 years.

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The vote was split 4-3. The opinion states:

“The intent demonstrated by both the plain constitutional language and this court’s prior case law imposes clear restrictions on the scope of permissible ballot initiatives. As both parties expressly acknowledge, the wisdom of placing before the voters of this state any particular ballot initiative seeking reform of the redistricting process, as well as the workability of that reform, is irrelevant to this limited issue and not a matter properly before this court.”

Basically, the constitution makes it very difficult to put a question on a ballot before voters – the Supreme Court deciding that the subject of mapmaking doesn’t fit into the parameters outlined in the constitution.

Three justices – Thomas, Garmin and Karmeier – did not agree with that reasonsing. In the dissent, justice Thomas says:

“The Illinois constitution is meant to prevent tyranny, not to enshrine it. Today, just as a critical election board deadline is about to expire, four members of our court have delivered, as a fait accompli, nothing less than the nullification of a critical component of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. In direct contradiction of the clear and unambiguous intention of the people who drafted the constitution and the citizens who voted to adopt it, the majority has irrevocably severed a vital lifeline created by the drafters for the express purpose of enabling later generations of Illinoisans to use their sovereign authority as a check against self-interest by the legislature.”

The Republican Party and Gov. Bruce Rauner obviously not happy with this decision, in a statement, the governor said:

“What drives people away from Illinois is the sense that our political system is broken and our government is unaccountable to the people. The Illinois system only works for the political insiders who benefit at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the middle class.

“Today’s court decision to deny Illinoisans the right to vote on a redistricting referendum does nothing to stem the outflow or change people’s views of how the system is rigged and corrupt.

“When the General Assembly reconvenes this fall, they should put political reform - term limits and independent redistricting - at the top of the legislative agenda so that incumbents aren’t locked into power and democracy is restored through competitive general elections.

“Legislative districts should represent people based upon the community where they live. Politicians should not pick their voters by drawing spaghetti-like district lines with the sole intent of keeping one party in power regardless of how the people vote.

“Fair maps create fair districts. The system is broken and controlled by career politicians. People leave when they cannot hold their politicians accountable.”

So, it would be up to the legislature to actually change this now.

Madigan’s Democratic Party counsel, Mike Kasper, was the attorney fighting this case for the plaintiffs, who referred to themselves as the People’s Map.

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

Related stories:

Latest on the Legal Battle Over Remapping

Aug. 8: Lori Lightfoot, who represents the Independent Map Amendment, and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who introduced a competing redistricting plan earlier this year, discuss the latest in the court fight over redistricting.

Judge Rules Against Independent Redistricting Measure

July 20: The latest attempt to wrest control of legislative redistricting from state lawmakers was handed a setback Wednesday morning.

Independent Maps Group Responds to Lawsuit

May 23: Days after a bipartisan group filed a constitutional amendment that would take redistricting out of the hands of state lawmakers, a lawsuit was filed to get the proposal thrown out.

Independent Map Group Files Constitutional Amendment for November Ballot

May 6: An Illinois constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to redraw legislative districts every 10 years is one step closer to November’s election ballot. The group Independent Maps delivered petitions with 570,000 signatures to the state capitol in Springfield on Friday.

Deadline Looms to Change Income Tax Law, Legislative Mapping Process

May 2: Will Illinois move to a graduated income tax from a flat tax, and will it end the practice of gerrymandering legislative maps? Tuesday marks the deadline in the Illinois General Assembly to pass laws to change these practices.

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