GOP blames Madigan for keeping redistricting off November ballot
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the Independent Map Amendment should be kept off the November ballot.
"The Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling is extremely disappointing to all of us – to our bipartisan coalition, to the more than 563,000 Illinois voters who signed petitions to put this important amendment on the ballot and to the many, many more Illinoisans eager for an opportunity to make the Illinois General Assembly more responsive to all of Illinois," Dennis FitzSimons, chairman of Independent Maps, said.
The amendment has had broad support from Illinois voters, both Democrats and Republicans, in their attempt to depoliticize the creation of gerrymandered legislative districts at the hands of a Democrat-led General Assembly every 10 years.
"Mapmaking by legislators – the very people whose re-elections depend on partisan maps – has led to a decline in competitive elections and voter dissatisfaction," FitzSimons said. "The only way to end partisan mapmaking is to turn the duty over to an impartial commission as has been done in California and Arizona. Unfortunately, the only way to make that change in Illinois is by a constitutional amendment brought to the ballot by citizens."
The Illinois Republican Party placed the blame for the court's ruling squarely on state House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago).
"The only thing standing in the way of political reform is Mike Madigan," Illinois Republican Party spokesman Steven Yaffe said in a statement released after the high court's Independent Map Amendment decision was released. "Madigan and his allies sued to stop citizen-led ballot initiatives for Independent Maps and term limits, and the speaker has used his power to stop both from passing or being voted on in Springfield. Madigan has worked tirelessly against reforms that would threaten his ability to rig Illinois’ political system in his favor. Legislators from both parties must reject Madigan’s obstructionism and demand reform."
In what is widely viewed as a sharply divided court split along party lines, the state's high court issued a ruling that strikes from the November ballot a referendum that would have asked voters whether the state constitution should be amended to create an independent body to draw the legislative maps for House and Senate districts.
The high court's Democrat justices affirmed a ruling by a Cook County judge that the proposed referendum did not fit into a narrow legal window for a petition-driven initiative aimed at changing the state's Constitution. Republican justices dissented and filed their own opinions, but the 4-3 ruling stands.
The Independent Map Amendment measure that supporters fought hard to get onto this November's ballot called for the creation of a multistage redistricting process that would have set up an 11-member commission to create a new district map for the state.
The ballot measure is similar to the 2014 Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment, known as "Yes for Independent Maps," which also didn't reach that year's November ballot after a Cook County judge likewise ruled it was unconstitutional.
The challenge that led to Thursday's state Supreme Court decision was filed in May in Cook County Circuit Court soon after the Independent Maps group filed its petition with state election officials. The petition contained twice the number of signatures required to place the amendment on the November ballot.
The challenge, filed by a group called the "Peoples' Map," claimed the ballot question violated the state's constitution, including safeguard provisions in Article XIV. The challenge also claimed the ballot question usurped the authority of the democratically elected General Assembly and the governor to enact redistricting legislation.
In July, a Cook County judge blocked the amendment from being added to the November ballot, prompting the measure's supporters to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court. Supporters claimed that the lower court's ruling, if allowed to stand, would eviscerate the right of Illinois residents to propose constitutional reforms.
The Independent Map Amendment ballot measure is among reforms that Gov. Bruce Rauner has advocated for and has been part of the campaigns of many local Republican candidates, particularly in southern Illinois. The referendum measure came up during budget talks earlier this summer when Rauner made it one of approximately six legislative proposals that were conditions for breaking the budget stalemate that has plagued the state since July 2015.