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SPRINGFIELD, IL – A diverse coalition of two dozen business, consumer and public interest organizations has urged the Illinois Supreme Court “to allow democracy to prevail and to let the people have their vote” on the Independent Map Amendment in the November election.

Signed by organizations “representing virtually every conceivable constituency and virtually every conceivable spot on the political spectrum,” the organizations in the coalition “are united in their concern for the future of Illinois and their support for a ballot initiative that will allow the people of Illinois to have a meaningful voice in shaping that future,” according to the “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) brief.

Signers of the Friend of the Court Brief

• League of Women Voters of Illinois
• Small Business Advocacy Council
• CHANGE Illinois
• Illinois Campaign for Political Reform
• Rockford Chamber of Commerce
• McCormick Foundation
• Champaign County Chamber of Commerce
• Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI)
• Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
• Latino Policy Forum
• Illinois Public Interest Research Group
• West Rogers Park Community Organization
• Metropolitan Planning Council
• Better Government Association
• Chicago Southside Branch NAACP
• Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization
• Union League Club of Chicago
• Illinois Farm Bureau
• Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce
• Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
• Common Cause
• Illinois Chamber of Commerce
• Citizen Advocacy Center
• The Civic Federation
• The Commercial Club of Chicago
• Chicago Embassy Church
• Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

On July 22, the Illinois Supreme Court granted an emergency motion accepting a direct appeal of a Cook County Circuit Court judge’s ruling that the Independent Map Amendment does not meet state constitutional requirements for a citizen-initiated amendment. The Independent Map Amendment would establish an impartial commission to draw legislative district boundaries and require a process that is transparent, impartial and fair.

“Redistricting is broken in the State of Illinois,” the brief states. “For more than 40 years, with a single exception, every time Illinois legislators have approached the task of redistricting, they have reached an impasse, and then the party in power has created a highly-partisan plan that favors incumbency over any other consideration. As a consequence, the people of Illinois have been denied competitive elections and have been saddled with too many legislators who care more about their own self-interest than the will of the people.”

Anticipating the likelihood that legislators would not correct problems involving their self-interests, the framers of the 1970 Illinois Constitution provided a solution – constitutional amendments that could be proposed by voters “to reclaim the redistricting process for the people,” according to the brief. “The Amici urge this Court to allow the people to seize the initiative and chart a new course for Illinois.”

In summary, the friend of the court brief made the following points:

Democratic harms caused by self-interested legislators drawing their own district maps are becoming more and more severe, in particular due to increasingly sophisticated mapping technology.

“The results of the increased technological sophistication available to today’s map-drawers can be seen in the degree to which parties have been able to benefit themselves (and harm their opponents) through redistricting plans,” the brief states. “The extent of partisan advantage in the current cycle’s state legislative redistricting plans is greater than at any time in the last forty years.”

The brief also argues: “As long as map-drawers are able to create uncompetitive districts that entrench incumbents, their constituents, the Amici, and the public in general will be unable to hold legislators to account for their work and votes in office. The Amici do not agree with one another on every policy issue, but they do agree that legislative races should be competitive, legislators should be responsive to the views of constituents, and legislators should be held accountable for their actions as representatives of the people of Illinois. Today, these aspirations too often are not reality in Illinois, and the reason is the broken redistricting system.”

Independent redistricting commissions (IRCs) in other states have been able to improve partisan fairness, competition, the number of contested elections, responsiveness, and representation.

The brief argues: “Given the undemocratic outcomes that result from legislators drawing redistricting plans, it is little wonder that citizens around the country have turned to IRCs to try to level the playing field. The fundamental problem with legislators drawing their own lines is that they are self-interested, and once elected from the safe districts they have drawn for themselves, they are largely unaccountable to the voters. The solution, then, is to remove the self-interest from the process. IRCs do just that.”

The proposed amendment fits squarely within the Illinois Constitution’s provision for constitutional ballot initiatives.

The framers of the Constitution realized that legislators have a greater vested interest in the legislative branch than any other branch or phase of government activity and that legislators are less likely to reform democracy in a way that conflicts with their own advantage. The citizen-initiated amendment is the check and balance provided by the Constitution.

The central question for the Supreme Court is whether the particular ballot initiative language before the court is ‘limited to’ structural and procedural subjects in the legislative article of the Constitution, according to the brief. The lower court ruled that the amendment is not constitutional because it involved non-legislative state officials in the independent redistricting process. “Without the use of non-legislative officers, an IRC in Illinois would be meaningless, and so too would be the command of Article XIV, § 3 [the Constitutional Initiative for Legislative Article] to allow the people to vote to reform the political process in Illinois,” the friend of the court brief states.

The organizations filing the friend of the court brief are represented by Ruth Greenwood and Annabelle Harless of the Campaign Legal Center and Constantine Trela, Tacy Flint, and Neil Conrad of Sidley Austin LLP.

Full text of the friend of the court brief HERE»

Motion for leave to file with the Illinois Supreme Court HERE»

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