A Cook County judge has, for now, blocked voters from having
the chance to decide whether the state should rewrite the rules by which state
lawmakers’ districts are drawn. And supporters of the proposed Independent Map
Amendment said they intended to immediately take the matter to the Illinois
On July 20, Cook County Circuit Judge Diane J. Larsen ruled
in favor of a group of plaintiffs allied with Illinois House Speaker Michael J.
Madigan, who had challenged the ballot question to amend the Illinois
The challenge to the proposed Independent Map Amendment had
been filed in Cook County Circuit Court in May, shortly after the Independent
Maps group had filed a petition carrying double the number of signatures needed
to place the amendment before Illinois voters this November.
The amendment’s opponents, under an umbrella group known as People’s
Map, were represented by Michael Kasper, an attorney with the law firm of
Hinshaw & Culbertson, of Chicago, who also serves as general counsel for
the Illinois Democratic Party.
The amendment opponents argued the amendment ballot question
should not be allowed because it violates the state constitution’s safeguard
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.”
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
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.”
Independent Maps responded by arguing 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.
They said 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,” directly
related to redistricting.
While Larsen conceded previous legal precedent theoretically
would allow a citizen initiative to reform the state’s legislative districting
process, she still said the amendment opponents were correct and the
Independent Map group’s arguments to the contrary were “unavailing.”
The judge said the amendment cannot assign new duties to
Illinois’ Auditor General or to Supreme Court justices, nor can it remove
duties and privileges assigned by the current constitutional text to the state
Supreme Court – which now holds exclusive power to review such redistricting
plans – or the Illinois Attorney General, who holds exclusive privilege to
challenge state redistricting maps.
And, the judge said, the amendment introduces too many “separate
and unrelated” questions.
“The fact that parts of the Redistricting Initiative involve
1) state officials other than in the legislature, 2) the circuit court’s
jurisdiction, and 3) the method of challenging a redistricting plan, makes
these questions significant individually and unrelated to redistricting itself,”
In a prepared statement following Larsen’s ruling,
Independent Maps Chairman Dennis FitzSimons said the group intended to file an
expedited appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
“We are disappointed that
Judge Larsen has ruled against the Independent Map Amendment and the 564,000
Illinois residents who signed a petition to change a broken system and
eliminate the inherent conflict of interest where politicians draw their own
legislative districts,” FitzSimons said in the release. “We expected from the
beginning of this effort that the issue would ultimately be decided by the
Illinois Supreme Court.
“We believe that the Illinois
Supreme Court will side with Illinois voters and not deny citizens the opportunity
to vote on this amendment.”