A proposed constitutional amendment seeking to change the way state legislative maps are drawn in Illinois is unconstitutional, a Cook County judge ruled Wednesday.
The judge sided with opponents of the proposed Independent Map Amendment, who argued that the effort is unconstitutional and places new roles on the state Supreme Court and auditor general.
Amendment supporters sought to get the initiative on the November 8 ballot.
The Independent Maps group intends to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Independent Maps Chairman Dennis FitzSimons released the following statement in response to today's ruling:
We are disappointed that Judge Larsen has ruled against the Independent Map Amendment and the 564,000 Illinois residents who signed a petition to change a broken system and eliminate the inherent conflict of interest where politicians draw their own legislative districts. We expected from the beginning of this effort that the issue would ultimately be decided by the Illinois Supreme Court. We will file for an expedited appeal to the State's highest court.
A great deal of care went into crafting an amendment that follows constitutional guidelines while also creating a system that is independent, fair, transparent, and protects the ability of minority communities to elect candidates of their choosing. Redistricting reform was specifically addressed by the framers of our constitution as a 'critical' area for citizen petition initiatives. We believe that the Illinois Supreme Court will side with Illinois voters and not deny citizens the opportunity to vote on this amendment.
Under the proposed Independent Maps Amendment, a non-partisan, 11-member independent commission would draw the state's legislative district maps.
The lawsuit against the Independent Map Amendment was filed in Cook County by the People's Map group, which is working with an elections attorney who has connections to House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The attorney successfully blocked a similar map amendment attempt in 2014. Madigan's spokesman has said the House speaker was not involved in the People's Map lawsuit.
UPDATE (3:54 p.m.): John Hooker, chairman of the People's Map, has released a statement in response to today's court ruling:
The Circuit Court's decision represents a victory for democracy and minority rights. This unconstitutional amendment would put a tremendous amount of authority in the hands of unelected middlemen unaccountable to the taxpayers. Shifting the authority to draw the legislative map from 178 elected officials to 11 people randomly selected or appointed by legislative leaders does not make the process 'independent,' rather it removes the ability for voters to have a voice. A group of unelected mapmakers is accountable to no one for the decisions it makes, has no reason to protect minority voters and minority communities, and faces no consequences for failing to give those protections.
Minority groups have spent decades fighting to ensure our voices are heard, and that hard work would be in jeopardy if this amendment were to become law. Any effort to weaken minority rights harms us all and should be seen as nothing more than a major setback in what has been accomplished for minority rights in Illinois. As politicians throughout the country try to make it more difficult for minorities to vote, we should ensure any movement like this is carefully examined.
The proponents of Independent Map claimed their proposal would put the map back in the hands of the voters, but nothing is further from the truth. The current process allows those unhappy with the redistricting process to express their displeasure at the ballot box.