* Press release…
The recorded debates from the state’s 1970 Constitutional Convention and previous Illinois Supreme Court rulings could not be clearer – the Illinois Supreme Court should reverse a recent Cook County Circuit Court ruling and order the Independent Map Amendment be put before voters in the upcoming November election, according to the coalition’s opening brief filed Friday with the Court.
“The language of the Illinois Constitution and legislative history of the convention debates are indisputable,” said Dennis FitzSimons, Chair of Independent Maps. “Redistricting reform is clearly a topic that can be addressed by a citizen initiated amendment, and the Independent Map Amendment is exactly what the men and women who wrote the constitution had in mind when they granted Illinoisans this power.”
The brief argues that the Cook County Circuit Court ruling is an erroneous interpretation of the Illinois Constitution and is contrary to both the plain language of the constitution and the legislative debates of the constitutional convention. “Indeed, if allowed to stand, the circuit court’s ruling would effectively nullify the constitutional right of Illinois citizens to amend the legislative article through the initiative process, making it virtually impossible to craft a redistricting proposal that offers any meaningful change,” the brief states.
Quoting extensively from the debates by the members of the convention, the brief demonstrates that the framers of the constitution identified redistricting as one of the “critical” areas that voters could address in a citizen-initiated amendment. While citizen-initiated amendments are limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in the legislative article, the constitution’s “limited to” language was designed to prevent initiatives on substantive issues like taxes, abortion or the death penalty, but the language was not intended to stifle creativity of initiatives related to the legislature.
“The circuit court reached the wrong conclusion because it refused to interpret the Redistricting Initiative in a common sense manner, recognizing that each and every aspect of it is directly related to (and only to) redistricting,” the brief states.
“Under these circumstances, denying Illinois voters the right to vote on the Redistricting Initiative would deprive all of the citizens of Illinois of an important constitutional right reserved to the people by the 1970 constitution,” according to the brief, which points out that the circuit court ruling incorrectly rejected a “straight-forward, common sense interpretation” of the constitution, isolated various aspects of the amendment and re-characterized them as pertaining to something other than redistricting. “All of the provisions of the Redistricting Initiative are limited to the subject of redistricting: each and every one of them seeks to improve the redistricting process, by establishing better and more objective standards and by adopting new procedures to minimize self-interest and partisanship.”
The brief is here. “Key points” from the brief are here.
* From the key points page…
A majority of the delegates agreed, however, that a more limited initiative process should be adopted “as a way to suggest constitutional change that a legislature . . . by its very nature might be unable to accomplish,” such as “reapportionment.” As one delegate noted, “we could hardly expect the legislature ever to propose a Constitutional amendment to reduce the size of its membership, to establish a reapportionment commission comprised entirely of nonlegislative members, or perhaps even to establish single - member districts.”