Illinois Redistricting Referendum Won’t Appear On Ballot
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled a voter referendum seeking to change the system Illinois uses to draw political boundaries is unconstitutional, meaning it can't appear on the November ballot. The ruling Thursday affirms a Cook County judge's decision that the proposal doesn't meet constitutional muster. A county judge rejected a similar signature-driven effort in 2014.
The Independent Maps coalition, a group of bipartisan business leaders and former elected officials, gathered petitions calling for an 11-member commission to be in charge of drawing legislative district lines. Currently, the party in power runs political mapmaking.
The legal challenge was brought by an attorney linked to top Democrats. It was filed on behalf of minority business and community leaders who claimed the proposed system would diminish minority representation. A half million Illinois residents signed a petition in support of putting the question on the November ballot.
Instead, the four justices elected as Democrats ruled it unconstitutional - citizens’ initiatives are narrowly limited in what they can change about the constitution, and this redistricting plan went too far. The three justices elected as Republicans each wrote sharp rebukes of that reading.
Justice Robert Thomas wrote “the Illinois constitution is meant to prevent tyranny, not enshrine it.”
The Illinois Supreme Court blocked a similar effort two years ago.
Gov. Bruce Rauner released a statement Thursday.
“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," he said. “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."
The Illinois Farm Bureau also weighed in on the ruling.
“The recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court not to let the Independent Map constitutional question stay on the ballot is very disheartening," said IFB President Richard Guebert, Jr. "The voters in Illinois now miss a great opportunity to redraw Illinois General Assembly districts in a more balanced way."