The Independent Maps coalition on Wednesday filed a petition asking the Illinois Supreme Court to reconsider its recent ruling denying voters the ability to vote this November on the proposed constitutional amendment to require a transparent, impartial and fair process of drawing legislative maps.
By a 4 to 3 party line division, the Supreme Court ruled that the Independent Map Amendment is not in line with the Illinois Constitution’s requirement for amendments proposed by voters. Under the Supreme Court’s rules, Independent Maps has the right to point out argument the majority of the Court overlooked or misapprehended and to ask it to reconsider its ruling and its reasoning. Four votes are required to grant rehearing.
“We believe the four justices in the majority were wrong and inconsistent in their reasoning and would reach a different conclusion if they consider, as they have in all other similar cases, the legislative debates from the 1969-70 constitutional convention,” said Dennis FitzSimons, Chair of Independent Maps. “More than 563,000 Illinois voters signed Independent Map Amendment petitions, and we owe it to them and thousands of volunteers across the state to make every possible effort to convince the Court that the amendment deserves to be placed before voters in November.”
The petition includes the following arguments in favor of a rehearing:
Ø The four justices in the majority said that their decision was compelled by the “plain language” of the Illinois Constitution, which states that voters can propose a constitutional amendment only if the amendment is “limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in” the article dealing with the legislature. However, the majority completely ignored Independent Maps’ “plain language” argument explaining why the amendment meets that requirement. Because each provision in the proposed amendment is limited to redistricting and because redistricting is a “structural and procedural subject,” there should be no doubt that the amendment is properly limited to a “structural and procedural subject.”
Ø Even if the majority’s strained construction of “structural and procedural” is one reasonable way to look at that section, the interpretation by Independent Maps is reasonable, too. That means that the constitutional provision is at least ambiguous and the court must look to the legislative history to decide which interpretation the framers intended. The four justices in the majority ignored the legislative history, which clearly indicates that redistricting is one of the “critical” areas the framers had in mind when they created the provision allowing voters to propose amendments to the constitution. “They ignored the debates during the constitutional convention, which show that the ‘limited to’ language was designed to prevent initiatives from being used as a subterfuge to address controversial subjects like taxes, abortion and the death penalty,” FitzSimons said. “Our amendment does exactly what the framers intended to allow citizens to do – propose meaningful redistricting reform. The majority’s refusal even to consider the legislative history is unprecedented in cases like this.”
Ø At a minimum, the Supreme Court should reconsider its ruling that a citizen-initiated amendment cannot include the Auditor General as a participant in the redistricting process, and it should reconsider its decision to postpone for another day any discussion of the other issues plaintiffs prevailed on in the trial court. Because the majority opinion is limited to a single issue, it fails to provide the citizens of Illinois with any guidance about whether a redistricting initiative is even permissible, let alone guidance about what the permissible contours of such an initiative would be.
“The majority opinion is inconsistent,” FitzSimons said. “At one point, it says that the Auditor General can’t be involved because that office is not now part of the legislative article of the constitution, but at another point, it suggests a redistricting initiative could use a non-legislative actor to help select a redistricting commission. Which is it? Without clear guidance, no one will be willing to invest the time, effort and money necessary to put a genuine redistricting reform initiative on the ballot.”
The link accompanying the press release for the full petition for reconsideration is here, but it’s not working as I write this.