Illinois Redistricting Plan |Tossed as Ballot Measure

     (CN) – A Cook County judge on Wednesday tossed from the ballot a proposed amendment to the Illinois constitution intended to do away much of the politics in legislative redistricting.
     Judge Diane Larsen found that the referendum question promulgated by a group called Independent Maps was written in a way that violates the Illinois Constitution.
     In May, a group called People’s Map filed a petition asking the Cook County Circuit Court’s permission to file a challenge to the Independent Maps proposal. It sought to stop the Illinois and Chicago Board of Elections and other government officials from spending any public funds to put the amendment on the November election ballot.
     The Independent Map Amendment (IMA) campaign submitted over 570,000 signatures in May to put its amendment — which would change the way Illinois legislative districts are mapped out with the federal census every 10 years — up for a vote.
     
According to IMA’s website, its proposition “would establish a non-partisan, independent commission responsible for drawing state legislative districts in a way that is transparent and open to the public.” The group says it would also “end the current redistricting process controlled by legislators with little public involvement.” The opposition to the amendment is headed by John Hooker, chairman of People’s Map and a former vice president of ComEd. He has since been named by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, according to a Chicago Tribune report. Other plaintiffs include Frank Clark, former CEO of ComEd and Emanuel-appointed president of the Chicago School Board, and Elzie Higginbottom, a prominent Chicago businessman and Democratic Party insider. People’s Map says in its May 11 petition that the restricting amendment “would remove the authority of the democratically elected General Assembly and the governor to enact redistricting legislation…and replace it with a system involving the Auditor General, two members of the Supreme Court, and two new unelected government bodies.” According to the filing, imposing new duties on the Auditor General and the Supreme Court violates the Illinois Constitution. Larsen ultimately agreed.
     Unless her ruling is overturned, it means the question won’t appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
     However, both sides in the legal battle over redistricting expect the case to wind up in the Illinois Supreme Court.
     Currently, it’s up to the legislature to redraw district boundaries after the once-a-decade federal census.
     In recent decades this has been a boon to the Democratic party in Illinois; previously, the system benefitted the Republicans.
     The amendment would create a multistep process in which an 11-member board, including representatives of the four state legislative leaders, would be tasked with drawing new boundaries for Illinois’ 118 House and 59 Senate seats.
     Once a proposed map is drafted, in would take seven votes to ratify it including at least two members from each political party and three independents.
     “A great deal of care went into crafting an amendment that follows constitutional guidelines while also creating a system that is independent, fair, transparent, and protects the ability of minority communities to elect candidates of their choosing,” Independent Maps chairman Dennis FitzSimons said in a statement. “Redistricting reform was specifically addressed by the framers of our constitution as a ‘critical’ area for citizen petition initiatives. We believe that the Illinois Supreme Court will side with Illinois voters and not deny citizens the opportunity to vote on this amendment.”
     Larsen’s ruling is the second time that an attempt to change how Illinois redistricts has been blocked in the courts.

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