Supporters of a proposed amendment that would reform how state legislative districts are laid out, have struck back at a lawsuit to block a referendum on the amendment, which was filed by a group aligned with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, saying the amendment – contrary to what opponents claim – would comply with the state constitution. 

The proposed so-called Independent Map Amendment was launched as an attempt by a group of Illinoisans seeking to wrest from the Illinois General Assembly - and the party leaders that dominate it - the task of redrawing Illinois’ legislative districts every 10 years. Critics have said the process is needlessly political and partisan, resulting in gerrymandered districts that allow incumbents and party leaders to unduly influence the selection of legislators in Springfield. 

The amendment would entrust the Illinois Auditor General, two justices of the Illinois Supreme Court and others with picking an 11?member committee, which would determine district lines based on, among other factors, the district’s total population, while respecting minority populations, city limits and other boundaries. 

A group called People’s Map filed for an injunction May 11 in Cook County Circuit Court, asking the court to toss the proposed amendment before voters get a chance to weigh in. The attorney for the group is Michael Kasper, a lawyer with the Chicago-based nationwide firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson, who also serves as general counsel for the Illinois Democratic Party. The Madigan-backed People’s Map is comprised of a number of current and former Chicago officials and community leaders. 

While the Independent Map Amendment has secured double the number of signatures required to put the proposition on the November 2016 ballot, the People’s Map group allege the amendment would violate safeguards contained in the 1970 Illinois Constitution. They also say the process should be controlled by elected officials, and not an independent group chosen by other means. 

A group that favors the amendment, Support Independent Maps, filed a motion June 3 as an intervener in the case, to deny the Madigan group’s request for an injunction. Support Independent Maps is represented by the Chicago-headquartered global firm of Mayer Brown and is made up of a cross-section of Republicans and Democrats, commerce and civic leaders. 

Opponents maintain the amendment will do the following: impose new duties on the Auditor General; strip the Illinois Supreme Court of its oversight of redistricting; 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.”

Opponents of the proposed amendment allege these actions would breach the passage in Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution that requires ballot initiatives to address “structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.” Article XIV deals with the ballot initiative process and Article IV with legislative redistricting procedures. 

Supporters countered that a reading of the state constitution shows redistricting – or “apportionment,” as written in the state constitution – is “precisely the type of subject that the framers created a ballot initiative to address.” Amendment advocates added state high court decisions have confirmed this interpretation. 

Amendment champions further contend the 1970 state constitutional convention delegates “recognized as a ‘fundamental fact of life’ that legislators have a ‘vested interest in the legislative branch’ which would make them less likely to propose needed changes . . . As the delegates recognized more than forty-five years ago, it is particularly ‘critical’ that citizens be allowed to put a proposal aimed at reforming the redistricting process directly to the voters.” 

Map amendment foes also allege the amendment would violate Article III of the state constitution by presenting “separate and unrelated questions in a single ballot proposition.” They defined those questions as pertaining to the following: the General Assembly’s power to draft redistricting maps; jurisdiction of state courts; duties and political affiliations of Illinois Supreme Court justices; and duties of the auditor general, attorney general and secretary of state. 

Amendment proponents replied the amendment would not be a “collection of disparate provisions relating to matters scattered throughout the Constitution.” Instead, the proposed changes have a “common thread” – they relate directly to redistricting. 

The next hearing is scheduled for June 30. Circuit Judge Diane J. Larsen has been presiding over the case.

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