One vote is all that stood in the way of the Independent Map Amendment being approved by the Illinois Supreme Court for placement on the Nov. 8 ballot.
On a party-line ruling last month, the four Democratic Supreme Court justices struck down the proposed redistricting reform amendment, while the three Republican Supreme Court justices favored allowing it to go before the voters.
The Supreme Court, by its 4-3 vote, sided with a Cook County judge who had ruled the proposed constitutional amendment unconstitutional.
Thus, the second attempt in two years to reform a secretive redistricting process controlled by politicians with little public involvement, which is unfair to minorities, skews election results, stifles competition, and thwarts the will of the people, has failed.
We disagreed with Cook County Judge Diane Larsen’s ruling in July.
We disagree with the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling from last month.
Justice Thomas Kilbride, writing an opinion for the majority, centered the court’s argument on an extremely narrow interpretation of the citizen initiative portion of the Illinois Constitution.
More than 563,000 Illinoisans who signed petitions supporting the Independent Map Amendment have every right to suspect that the institutions of government, run by self-serving politicians or those beholden to them, want to stifle the public’s input.
Indeed, the proposed 11-member citizen redistricting commission would have been required to be open and transparent, while removing politics and incumbency from consideration when new legislative districts are drawn every 10 years.
The current redistricting process, for three of the past four decades, is controlled by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who has used it to promote his personal political agenda (Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate).
The latest result of Madigan’s maps will be seen by voters Nov. 8, where in election after legislative election across the state there are no competitive races.
Dennis FitzSimons, chairman of Independent Maps, said the court’s ruling was “extremely disappointing” and that drafters of the Illinois Constitution “would not recognize the interpretation” made by the Supreme Court.
So what’s next?
FitzSimons said a rehearing of the case might be sought.
If not, redistricting reform is officially dead for 2016.
The good news is that this effort very nearly made it across the finish line.
With elections in 2018 and 2020 ahead before the next redistricting cycle, a revised redistricting reform amendment might yet be possible.
Justice Kilbride wrote, “Our decision is not intended to reflect in any way on the viability of other possible redistricting reform initiatives.”
We hope the Independent Maps group, which very nearly succeeded in 2016, will remain together, retool its proposed amendment, and push ahead for needed redistricting reforms in the future.