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*** UPDATED x1 *** Will the remap proposal survive the test?

Friday, Jan 17, 2014

* I asked Michael Kolenc, the campaign manager for “Yes for Independent Maps” to explain to me why he thinks his coalition’s push to put a remap constitutional amendment on the ballot will survive a key constitutional test.

You can find an explanation for what the amendment actually does by clicking here. The group raised $487K in the fourth quarter (from some heavy hitters like Lester Crown, Ken and Anne Griffin, Jerry Reinsdorf, the IMA, the Chamber, etc.), spent $328K and had $202K in the bank.

* Anyway, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that citizen petitioners who want to amend the Constitution must confine themselves solely to issues that change both the structure and procedure of the General Assembly.

So, with that in mind, here’s Kolenc’s explanation…

I am very confident that it can survive a challenge. The issue we have to answer is: Does this amendment make a structural and procedural change to the state constitution?

Redistricting is clearly a legislative process–a set of actions taken by the General Assembly once every ten years. Our amendment alters that process so it is transparent and nonpartisan.

Under the current Constitution, if the General Assembly fails to enact a plan before the deadline, legislative leaders appoint a Legislative Redistricting Commission, a structure within the legislative branch. Our amendment alters that structure so that it includes independent commissioners.

From our conversations with several drafters of the 1970 IL Constitution, we know that redistricting reform was exactly the kind of amendment they had in mind when they included the “structural and procedural” clause.

Hope that answer is helpful.

It was helpful to me, and it makes sense. Your take?

*** UPDATE *** Many thanks to a commenter for pointing out perhaps the oddest argument ever on the need to reform the remap process. It’s in the Tribune, of course

The House has 30 contested primaries; the Senate has two.

Why are there so few candidates? Because the results of the election are already cooked. Lawmakers draw their own districts, and they’re not interested in competitive elections. They’re interested in job security. They’ve gamed the legislative maps to serve their needs instead of yours.

The current boundaries were drawn by the majority party Democrats, who naturally stacked most of the districts in their favor. A handful of districts were ceded to the GOP by corralling Republican voters together. If you’re a Republican in a district drawn to elect a Democrat — or vice versa — your vote rarely matters.

In many districts, the minority party doesn’t bother to field even a token candidate. It’s expensive (and often pointless) to campaign.

How does partisan remapping impact primaries? Yes, incumbents can pick and choose what voters they represent, but that doesn’t really stop anybody in their own party from challenging them in a primary, does it?

If you want to claim that the remap process is unfair to the minority party in general elections, OK. The courts say this is fine by them, but whatever. Make your partisan case. But primaries?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

14 Comments
  1. - 1969 constitution was a joke - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    Redistricting was specifically cited if I recall at the convention as something that could be reformed but less likely to be reformed by the legislature itself. I’m going from memory.

    But the reason for the amendment was to provide the ability to reform the legislature as they wouldn’t do it themselves but not allow for matters of policy or a general right of initiative.


  2. - PhoenixRising - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:27 pm:

    Pretty clear that it would be a structural and procedural change to the GA. Spent 328K on what?/an occasional blurp…

    and congrats Rich on the “wapo best”


  3. - PhoenixRising - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    I neglected to figure in the K’s for legalese…


  4. - xxtofer - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:35 pm:

    I have generally be in favour of ideas like this. But I have to wonder if the Texas manufacturers or the Florida CoC or the Georgia Republican party is in favour of this kind of idea in their own states. For sure, it is the RIGHT idea, but I wonder why Democrats should hinder their ability to gerrymander in blue states, when generally Republicans fight the same kind of ideas in their states.


  5. - Thomas - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:41 pm:

    Speaking of redistricting, did you catch the Trib’s editorial blaming the lack of contested primaries this March on Illinois’ politicized remap process?

    No doubt, “packing” partisan voters in districts creates fewer contested general elections, but primaries? I’ve always assumed an overwhelmingly partisan district is more likely to have a contested primary because the primary is the only game in town. Here’s a link:

    http://my.chicagotribune.com/#section/525/article/p2p-78911545/


  6. - Bill White - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:41 pm:

    If you want to see some “real” gerrymandering, check out Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

    And this tidbit from 2011 is funny (IMHO):

    === The Indianapolis home of Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita is about 500 yards outside the new district boundaries drawn by state legislators in April and signed into law last week by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

    As Indiana secretary of state from 2003 to 2010, Rokita championed a nonpartisan redistricting process that the Republican-controlled General Assembly declined to follow in performing its once-a-decade duty of redrawing district lines following the U.S. census to ensure equal population in each district.

    Rokita, a Munster native, said he believes his “Rethinking Redistricting” proposals may have annoyed some state lawmakers who then drew him out of his district as payback. ===

    http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_21e1600b-ede7-54cf-989d-0fc4a139bd4e.html


  7. - Roland Deschain - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    @phoenixrising

    They spent $162K(ish) for “Field Consulting” by NW Democracy Resources. I’m guessing they are doing signatures - they are going to need several hundred thousand.


  8. - Siriusly - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:44 pm:

    I don’t think it passes the test. I actually don’t think that this changes the procedure of the General Assembly.


  9. - Bill White - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 2:55 pm:

    This link is to the decision by the IL Supreme Court that removed the “Eight is Enough” petition from the ballot. It’s a great place to start when looking into the legal intricacies of these issues:

    http://www.leagle.com/decision/19941166641NE2d525_11144


  10. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    The Tribbie editorial is bizarre — and hilarious.

    Does anyone read this stuff before they publish?


  11. - RonOglesby - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 3:01 pm:

    North-South and East-West lines. Boxes unless broken by a geographic boundary or state line… No more than 5 or 6 corners in any district line.
    having other groups draw crazy lines can be just as bad as having politicians draw them.


  12. - Yossarian Lives - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 3:08 pm:

    I hate admitting this, but I actually think the Tribune has a point this time. Incumbents aren’t just interested in the partisan makeup of their districts (although having people who identify with your party making up a majority of the district’s voters is certainly a prerequisite); they’re also interested in hanging onto territory where they’re well-known and have performed well in the past and jettisoning territory where they might be vulnerable, including to a primary challenge. Places where an incumbent does well and does poorly are determined not just by partisan distribution, but by where a political rival (sometimes from the same party) has a power base or good name recognition. Most blatantly, an incumbent can simply ask that a likely primary opponent be mapped out of the district.


  13. - Rich Miller - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 3:12 pm:

    Good points all, YL, and I kinda shorthanded it in the post above.

    But keep in mind that even if redistricting reform is implemented, if a person wins, that person is prolly gonna be popular in that district for the next ten years and will likely see few if any primary opponents.


  14. - low level - Friday, Jan 17, 14 @ 4:30 pm:

    Tribune misses everything.

    There are 45 something new members of the General Assembly this year? There may only that many contested primaries this year, there were many more in 2012 - largely stemming from retirements. Yet they also claim we need term limits.

    No, what’s really driving all this is outright hatred of
    Mike Madigan, and Democrats in general. Hence the “partisan map drawn by Democrats - or however it was they phrased it.

    Independent commissions in other states produce mixed results. I would very much take issue with how California was redistricted last time. The outcome resulted in more Democratic seats but if you look at the percentage of votes Democrats receive in that state one could very well say even more of the seats should have been Safe or Dem favored.


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