An attorney connected to powerful Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan has filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court to block a referendum from landing on the ballot, which would ask Illinois voters to reform the way Illinois creates the legislative districts from which state lawmakers are elected.
On May 11, Michael Kasper, an attorney with the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson, of Chicago, who also serves as general counsel for the Illinois Democratic Party, filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of a group identified as People’s Map, asking a court to toss out the proposed so-called Independent Map Amendment before voters get a chance to weigh in.
The Independent Map Amendment was launched as an attempt by a group of Illinoisans seeking to wrest out of the hands of the Illinois General Assembly - and the party leaders that dominate it - the task of redrawing Illinois’ legislative district maps every 10 years. Critics of the current process have said the process is needlessly political and partisan, resulting in odd-shaped gerrymandered districts which produce situations in which incumbents and party leaders can unduly influence the process of selecting who represents Illinois voters in Springfield.
Supporters of the current process, including Madigan, however, have said the process should be controlled by officials elected by voters, and not an independent group selected by other means.
The Independent Map Amendment proposal, for instance, would entrust the task of redrawing legislative districts to an 11-member committee selected by the Illinois Auditor General, two justices of the Illinois State Supreme Court and others, and would be charged with the task of determining legislative district boundaries based on, among other factors, the total population of the district, while respecting minority populations, city limits and other community boundaries.
The group behind the Independent Map Amendment included both Democrats and Republicans, and leaders in Illinois commerce and civic organizations, including chairman Dennis Fitzsimmons, chair of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and former chairman and CEO of Tribune Company; former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar; Bill Daley, former Secretary of Commerce under former President Bill Clinton and brother of Mayor Richard J. Daley; Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum; Rosanna Marquez, state president, AARP Illinois; Mary Kubasak, president, League of Women Voters of Illinois; Don Thompson, former CEO, McDonald’s; and former Illinois Lt. Govs. Sheila Simon and Corinne Wood, among others.
The People’s Map lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group including Chicago Housing Authority Board Chair and former executive vice president of ComEd John Hooker; Chicago Board of Education President and former ComEd chairman and CEO Frank Clark; the Rev. Leon Finney, a community organizer and head of the nonprofit Woodlawn Community Development Corporation; former CHA chair and housing developer Elzie Higginbottom; Raymond Chin, chairman of the board of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce; Fernando Grillo, senior vice president of investment banking firm Estrada Hinojosa and former head of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation; Jorge Perez, executive director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association and appointed member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Community Development Commission; and Craig Chico, president of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council on Chicago’s South Side.
While the Independent Map Amendment has secured double the number of signatures required to put the amendment on the November 2016 ballot, the People’s Map lawsuit asked the court to declare the Independent Map Amendment cannot be placed on the ballot because it allegedly violates several safeguard provisions in the Illinois state constitution.
The lawsuit said the amendment would “remove the authority of the democratically elected General Assembly and the Governor to enact redistricting legislation by law and replace it with a system involving the Auditor General, two members of the Supreme Court, and two new unelected government bodies.”
This would violate Article XIV of the state constitution, the lawsuit said, because it would impose new duties on the Auditor General; strip the state Supreme Court of its oversight of the redistricting process; require Supreme Court justices to declare a political affiliation; and doesn’t allow the Illinois Attorney General to sue “in the name of the People of the State of Illinois concerning redistricting.”
The lawsuit alleged the Independent Map Amendment would also violate Article III of the state constitution by presenting “separate and unrelated questions in a single ballot proposition.”