Independent Maps files brief with state's high court ahead of ruling
Independent Maps, a non-partisan statewide coalition supporting a petition campaign to place the Independent Map Amendment on the state’s November ballot, has filed a 50-page brief with the Illinois Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court recently granted the motion for a direct appeal of the Cook County Circuit Court ruling against the constitutionality of the proposed citizen-initiated amendment on redistricting.
“The Illinois Supreme Court’s willingness to hear this case quickly is a positive for the 563,000 Illinoisans who signed the Independent Map Amendment petitions and thousands more who want an opportunity to have their votes counted in November,” Dennis FitzSimons, chairman of Independent Maps, said.
FitzSimons said the Illinois Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on a citizen initiative since 1994 and has never ruled on questions that apply to a redistricting amendment.
“We look forward to explaining why the lower court ruling needs to be overturned and why voters this fall should be able to make the changes needed to stop politicians from drawing their own legislative maps,” FitzSimons said.
Specifically, the Independent Map Amendment – officially known as the Illinois Independent Map Amendment of 2016 -- would create a multi-stage redistricting process to appoint an 11-member commission.
Here’s how the process would work:
First, the state's auditor general would select three people from a random pool of names to serve as a review panel. That group would choose seven people from a different random pool of 100 registered Illinois voters to serve on a board that creates the map. The remaining four members of the 11-member commission would be chosen by the leaders of the General Assembly.
Once the public has had a chance to attend hearings and comment on the maps, the new boundaries would need to get approved by at least seven members of the commission. At least two members of each political party and three independents would have to approve the map.
If the commission was unable to agree on a map, then the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court – along with the highest-ranked justice of the other party – would select an outside appointee to draw the boundaries.
In its recently filed friend-of-the-court brief, members of Independent Maps said they support a ballot initiative that would allow the people of Illinois to have a meaningful voice in shaping the state’s future.
“Redistricting is broken in the State of Illinois,” the brief said.
For more than 40 years, virtually every time Illinois legislators have approached the task of redistricting, they have reached an impasse, the brief said.
“Then the party in power has created a highly partisan plan that favors incumbency over any other consideration," the brief said. "As a consequence, the people of Illinois have been denied competitive elections and have been saddled with too many legislators who care more about their own self-interest than the will of the people."
FitzSimons said Illinois' state government is broken.
“Career politicians go behind closed doors and rig elections by drawing legislative maps to benefit themselves," FitzSimons said. "The Independent Map Amendment will reform the rules and require a process of drawing maps that is transparent, impartial and fair. Illinois’ elections should reflect the will of the people, not the politicians."
Petitioners led a similar effort in 2014, but failed to attain a referendum on the state’s ballot when the proposal was ruled unconstitutional by a Cook County judge. Independent Maps said there is more support and interest in the measure this year.
Signers of the friend-of-the-court brief include the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Small Business Advocacy Council, CHANGE Illinois, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, McCormick Foundation, Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Latino Policy Forum, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, West Rogers Park Community Organization, Metropolitan Planning Council, Better Government Association, NAACP-Chicago Southside Branch, Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization, Union League Club of Chicago; Illinois Farm Bureau, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Common Cause, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Citizen Advocacy Center, the Civic Federation, the Commercial Club of Chicago, Chicago Embassy Church and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
To read the 50-page brief, go to www.MapAmendment.org.