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Fortner resurrects “crowd sourcing” remap reform plan

Tuesday, Sep 6, 2016 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Chicago Tribune editorial board published a long screed over the weekend which essentially declared that no remap reform proposal would ever get by the Illinois Supreme Court and called upon Bruce Rauner and the billionaires he controls to spend lots more money on Supreme Court elections.

When former Gov. Pat Quinn produced his own remap plan, it was nitpicked to death by the media. We didn’t see hardly any of that sort of analysis of the remap reformers’ two failed plans. Why? You’d have to ask them, but I’m not the only person who believes that the reformers presented a poorly drafted proposal. And some even believed the reformers’ plan appeared as if it was designed to fail. My weekly syndicated newspaper column looks at the political angle and concludes

Again, the governor, his party apparatchiks and his legislative candidates are not wrong to blame Madigan or Senate President John Cullerton or rank and file Democrats for the lack of action on redistricting reform this year. Have at it. You use what works in campaigns, and this works.

Indeed, Republican legislative candidates have been doing their very best to kick up as much dust as possible since the redistricting opinion was handed down. The common thread, of course, is Speaker Madigan.

“Mike Madigan and the career politicians in Springfield have made a mess of our state, and it is going to take fair maps and term limits to clean it up,” said Tony McCombie, the GOP challenger to Rep. Mike Smiddy (D-Hillsdale). Hers was one of countless statements I’ve seen from Republican candidates throughout the state, and the governor was in her district’s main media market the same day to amplify his party’s case against the ruling.

But knocking down [Quinn’s] proposal before it even gets out of the gate because of the sponsor is wrong and implies that no idea proposed by any Democrat with the slightest bit of taint on this topic will ever be acceptable in the least. And that more than implies that the governor wants a campaign issue far more than he wants an actual solution — which is exactly what the Democrats have suspected from the very beginning.

As we’ve already discussed, I’m not ready to give up on the court just yet

* Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) has his own remap reform plan, which he has filed as legislation, but believes could also pass constitutional muster if presented as a citizen initiative…

It has been said that the fundamental problem with the way Illinois draws its political districts is that it lets the politicians choose their voters, rather than let the voters choose their politicians. This year an attempt to solve that problem by Independent Maps was rejected as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I’d like to offer another solution, one that I have filed as HJRCA 60.

The method for creating an independent commission proved to be one of the stumbling blocks for the Independent Map Amendment in court. I’d keep the formation of the commission the same as it currently is in the constitution, but I would change its function. Instead of drawing a map, the commission would provide data and software for drawing maps to the public. This provides a procedural change as required for a citizen initiative.

A citizen initiative must include both procedural and structural changes and it must stay confined to changes to the legislative article of the constitution. My proposal separates House and Senate districts as was recommended by the Illinois Reform Commission in 2009. This provides a structural change to the legislature as required for a citizen initiative.

Unlike the Independent Map Amendment, my proposal stays confined to changes in the legislative article of the Illinois Constitution. The Secretary of State currently acts to break a deadlock, and I keep the Secretary in substantially the same role. I also leave the roles of the Attorney General and Supreme Court as they are in the current redistricting process.

So how are the maps drawn? I’d let the public draw them. The legislature must first define in law the criteria that will be used and how maps are scored, before the Census data is released. Then by “crowdsourcing” the creation of the map the public can submit maps or improve on previous submissions. The commission acts as the referee, making sure maps meet the law and are scored and submitting the top three maps to each chamber. Each chamber may vote to approve one by a supermajority vote, but the legislature can’t amend any. If a chamber cannot agree on a map, then the Secretary of State certifies the map with the best score.

One state that is often praised for their redistricting process is our neighbor Iowa. Like this proposal Iowa separates the task of drawing the map from the task of approving the map, and the criteria for drawing the map are laws passed by the legislature. Like this proposal the Iowa legislature can only vote up or down on the map.

My proposal is not entirely new. It’s based on a proposal that I filed in 2009. That proposal had a hearing in the Senate and received mention in a few media outlets. The Daily Herald asked its readers to “urge your state representative and state senator to look at this proposal.” (Aug 8, 2009) Maybe it is time to do just that.

That looks a whole lot tighter than the reformers’ plan, which wandered all over the place.

And whether you agree with this idea or not, it puts the lie to the drama queens out there who claim with purist certainty that nothing can ever be done.

The bottom line is that the reformers screwed up badly - again - and almost nobody wants to admit it.


  1. - The_Equalizer - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 9:47 am:

    I find this remap issue to be nothing but a distraction from far more important issues like the budget, pension issues, etc. Focus on the budget, then worry about these other lesser issues.

  2. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 9:49 am:

    “The bottom line is that the reformers screwed up badly - again - and almost nobody wants to admit it.”

    Unless the goal of the ‘reformers’ was stirring-up voter anger while preserving a partisan campaign issue for November, in which case…

    – MrJM

  3. - The Captain - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 9:53 am:

    I kind of like the idea behind the Fortner plan but it will spawn a cottage industry of not-remotely-independent-but-pretending-to-be map drawers.

  4. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:01 am:

    – The bottom line is the reformers screwed up badly — again….–

    Sure has been a lot of that going around.

    Rauner’s term-limits referendum. The Dems pension “reform.” The “unintentional” damage from the Turnaround Agenda…

    What a string of bad luck for such sincere, honest statesmen.

    If you can’t spot the chump the first time the deal goes round, you’re it.

  5. - State Rep Mike Fortner - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:03 am:

    Captain - I fully expect that biased mappers would make submissions. In this internet age I’m not sure one can keep all biases out. The key is setting the standards in advance of the data, then all plans from whatever point of view are judged equally. Building in bias usually comes at the expense of neutral redistricting principles, so I expect the more biased plans to fare less well when measured against all plans.

  6. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:11 am:

    “The Chicago Tribune editorial board published a long screed over the weekend which essentially declared that no remap reform proposal would ever get by the Illinois Supreme Court and called upon Bruce Rauner and the billionaires he controls to spend lots more money on Supreme Court elections.”

    This has been a long-standing ploy by the Tribune Editorial Board: Assert that Illinois is a hopeless, lawless, failed state — and then propose banana republic-worthy methods to combat the asserted problem.

    Repeat as necessary.

    – MrJM

  7. - Dan Johnson - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:11 am:

    The weirdest thing about the Independent Maps proposal is that they had top-notch staff. So clearly someone on the board with a ton of money decided to push through their insistence to include the Auditor General. But why? And why did the Dem donors continue to support round 2 of the clearly deficient proposal?

    My wildly speculative guess: there’s some weird culture of deference among the 1%-ers that get involved in civic initiatives, and it just isn’t appropriate to call out clearly bad decisions when they are cloaked in an aura of noblesse oblige.

    Kind of like how the 1%-ers just knew they could pass clearly unconstitutional pension reform a few years ago, and the rest of the wealthy civic types just went along with it, even though the plain text was out there for anyone to read.

    And kind of like how under Rauner, the 1% civic types who went bananas over our pension debt under Quinn haven’t said anything about it for 18 months because one of their own is now making things much worse. But for some reason, they all just kind of fall in line.

    Anyway, one more plug for the bipartisan Raoul-McCann-Cassidy-Batinick redistricting proposal that will include congressional and legislative maps done by an independent commission when all the other states do as well. It’s a national problem, so awesome to see Illinois take the lead in a bipartisan way in crafting a national solution. It’s SB322. There’s no group or money behind it, so civic types and journalists interested in the issue, please read up on it yourselves. No one will pitch you on it.

    Earned some legit Republican votes in the Senate on third reading:

  8. - Norseman - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:23 am:

    It’s another plan. Goes to Rich’s point that there are more than 1 way to skin the redistricting cat. Other than the possible inclusion of the de-linking of the Senate/House districts (to make sure there is something to argue for both “structure and process), I prefer my own ideas. Less messy in my opinion.

  9. - Hamlet's Ghost - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:26 am:

    If the objective is to persuade wealthy Republicans to spend millions of dollars on future IL Supreme Court elections, then presenting a legally flawed redistricting referendum is simply good tactics.

  10. - RNUG - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:38 am:

    This sounds like it would work. Enough change to qualify and mostly leaves the existing duties by other constitutional officers and branches in place. Key point is it doesn’t expand or significantly alter those duties, so the scope is limited. Seems to follow the road map the IL SC has laid out.

    I’m not afraid of biased mappers contributing; both sides would be playing that game and, most likely, tend to offset each other. Add in some truly unbiased public and good government people, and you should end up with some compromise maps that would probably be better than today.

  11. - wondering - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 10:40 am:

    Those in the know point out that the proposed amendment seemed crafted to fail. Fail it did. It could have been written in such a fashion as to not fail. Judge Mivka all but spoon fed the prose. The proponents chose not to do that. For what purpose? If this amendment caused divisiveness on the Court, if it summoned an angry public in the name of “citizen led reform”., to what end? This was not a spontaneous “citizen led reform, it was Rauner money paying for the solicitation of signatures under a veil of subterfuge. This seems wildly improbable, cynical……until we look at a broader picture. If the public can be convinced that this Court disregards the public will, concocts illogical constitutional conclusions to subvert the will of the people….there is a remedy. The Justices of the Court stand for election. If the public can be manipulated these Justices stand to be voted out. And, to the real point of deliberately enraging the public with this lame Trojan horse, the requirement that pensions may not be diminished or impaired can be revisited.

  12. - RNUG - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:09 am:

    == And, to the real point of deliberately enraging the public with this lame Trojan horse, the requirement that pensions may not be diminished or impaired can be revisited. ==

    No point to it. You can eliminate the pension clause going forward for new hires; nothing is stopping that today.

    But even with a new court you can’t negate the existing pension obligations or $111B (more or less) pension debt.

  13. - wondering - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:15 am:

    Oh yes you can……you can certainly diminish, wouldn’t be the first time a Court reversed itself or came up with a shift. I did not comment on the debt, but diminishing would reduce it.

  14. - RNUG - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:17 am:

    == Oh yes you can ==

    Explain exactly how you would negate the valid contract for pensions under federal contract law …

  15. - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:23 am:

    Still think Illinois needs to look at California’s model (another large state that has a lot of latitude) were the top two move forward regardless of party. This would provide parity and consistency with our municipal elections as well.

    Of course neither party will want this because it will make both of them more accountable in general elections as well as provide equity for independents and third parties.

  16. - wondering - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:33 am:

    rnug, one step at a time, first things first. The Illinois Supreme Court is the issue. If it can get past them the ball is play federally. Perhaps, you are right, won’t past federal muster. But the only thing that makes it a contract is that the Illinois constitution has been read to define it as such. Let Trump get in, appoint some conservative justices and all bets are off federally.

  17. - RNUG - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:38 am:

    - wondering -

    Still don’t see it. Getting rid of the pension clause doesn’t change the validity of the contract. Contract law is clear; you can’t retroactively change contracts and you can’t change them going forward except mutually.

  18. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:41 am:

    The Trib published another long screed this morning regarding the “safe roads” amendment that’s going up this November. Any thoughts, especially in the context of these other screeds? I can see their point to a certain degree in terms of the possible Californication of Illinois budgeting (though they’re not clever enough to draw that analogy), but the language they use looks more like beer-hall putsch stuff, it’s more rabble-rousing than explanation.

  19. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:42 am:

    And by the way, by “Californication” of the budget, I mean, “locking down every line item so hard that there’s no legislative discretion left.”

  20. - Angry Chicagoan - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:43 am:

    And by the way, what I mean by that analogy is locking every line item down so hard in the constitution that there’s no legislative discretion left in the event of an emergency.

  21. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:48 am:

    The 4-3 majority on the court exists because Madigan played a long shot and picked off a traditionally Republican Supreme Court seat (formerly held by Heiple). Later, the Republicans picked up another seat, but the Democratic majority on the court is due to Madigan’s foresight.

  22. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 11:50 am:

    I thought it was weird they seemed to be arguing that you should be able to use transportation funding for “human services” — not that we should be funding our government activities appropriately. It made them sound a little crazy to my ear.

  23. - wondering - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 12:06 pm:

    runug, I am not forecasting a win for Rauner, I agree with you. Looking for motivation. Contract law didn’t stop Lisa Madigan et al from trying. Some of the mental gymnastics looked like mental circus. The Trib came up with some doozy thinking. These folks are not beyond giving it another go. Even Cullerton thinks he can work around the contract clause.

  24. - Big Muddy - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 12:14 pm:

    I like Rich’s idea better. Let’s just go to a unicameral legislature. Less #’s of Rep’s/Senators = less corruption. Winning!

  25. - @MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 2:44 pm:

    “Less #’s of Rep’s/Senators = less corruption.”

    Is that why autocracies are recognized as the least corrupt form of government?

    – MrJM

  26. - anon - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 2:50 pm:

    Rep. Fortner has some creative ideas. I prefer his plan to the ones from Quinn and the Independent Maps group.

  27. - Doug Simpson - Tuesday, Sep 6, 16 @ 2:56 pm:

    In Texas they found 2 cases of voter fraud out of millions of votes. Both were in the White Community. Whites should not be allowed to vote, since all voter fraud occurs among those people.

    Simple, huh?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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