Judge's Illinois redistricting ruling leaves only one way left to tweak Mike Madigan

House Fleecer Michael Madigan

House Fleecer Michael Madigan

So, a Cook County Judge has ruled that we don't get to vote on an Illinois constitutional amendment that would take  legislative redistricting out of the hands of politicians protecting their hind sides and turn it over to a more objective and less political process.

As the Chicago Tribune reported:

Judge Diane Larsen found that the referendum question put forth by the Independent Maps group was written in a way that violates the Illinois Constitution. The ruling means that, as of now, the question won't appear before voters Nov. 8.

The ruling hands an initial victory to forces with ties to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has maintained his hold on power at the Capitol for more than three decades in part because he's had the power to draw the boundaries of legislative districts. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Madigan's chief nemesis, supports the ballot question.

Don't expect the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse the decision because it the high court is the  same corrupt political system that seeks, above all, to deny citizen-inspired good government initiatives from succeeding. The same system that designed a state constitution that virtually eliminates citizen-inspired reform of the legislative process, as if the Madigan model of lawmaking is the best of all possible worlds.

One alternative

It strikes me that the only way for citizens to get their two cents in is to follow the lead of the only successful petition driven initiative. You had to go all the way back decades when Pat Quinn hadn't become a handmaiden of the Democratic Party and was a gadfly trying to inspire grass-roots reform.

He led the fight for the so-called Cutback Amendment that reduced the size of the Illinois House from 177 members, three to a district, to 118 members, one from each district. It was hailed as true reform back then, but in testimony to the veracity of the Principle of Unintended Consequences, it allowed for the concentration of power in legislative leaders in a way that has allowed  Madigan to run the state as he sees fit (i.e. in his and his cronies' self-interests).  The three-member district allowed for the presence of intelligent and honest people to form a block of independent lawmakers who made it their job to bedevil the likes of Madigan. They weren't always successful, but at least there was someone to speak up for the common good.

So, here's my suggestion: Put an Expand Amendment on the ballot, to restore the three-member districts. Thanks to Quinn's efforts, the court cannot find a way to throw it off the ballot because it does not conform to a court's strained ruling that it violates the constitution. No way could Madigan and his toadies control all those people. It might not change all that much, but at least it will tweak the powerful.

P.S. Every time I hear commentators, editorial boards and other voices bewail the near impossibility to reform the constitution through a referendum, I think back to when those same people were opposed to the last available call for a constitutional convention that could have addressed and changed this corrupt process. They formed a united front with the same powerbrokers and special interests that we so distrusting of the ability of the citizens to govern themselves that the call for a con-con, as it was called, was soundly defeated. Proving once again that we get the government that we deserve.

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    If there is a process to get this on the ballot, and the process is followed, why does the judge say it can't be on the ballot? Is the process set up unconstitutional? or is it her interpretation of the law as to what is or is not unconstitutional? and I thought I read the writers were very careful to follow the rules this time after being refused last time...is this just the Democrats continually moving the goalposts?

  • It might be worthwhile for both of you to spend a few minutes reading the Illinois Constitution itself. Article XIV sets out three procedures for amending it. The proposal ruled on by the Cook County Circuit court was under Section 3 of that article, which reads as follows:
    " Amendments to Article IV of this Constitution may be
    proposed by a petition signed by a number of electors equal
    in number to at least eight percent of the total votes cast
    for candidates for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial
    election. Amendments shall be limited to structural and
    procedural subjects contained in Article IV [dealing with the legislature]. . . ."

    Only powers and procedures of the legislature can be changed under this section. If the amendment deals with subjects and officers outside the legislature, one of the other two procedures for amending the Constitution must be followed.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    I've read it and know that there's a dispute about the exact meaning of the vaguely defined "powers and procedures." As to the argument that it involves subjects and officers outside the legislature, it can be argued (as does the Chicago Tribune at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-redistricting-ruling-madigan-illinois-map-edit-0721-jm-20160720-story.html) that 'Non-legislative officials — the attorney general, the Illinois Supreme Court justices — already have supporting roles in redistricting under the current rules."

    But I don't expect to make any headway with you. You are a strict constructionist when it comes to the Illinois constitution, for which I applaud you, believing that that's the same view you have of the U.S. Constitution.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    It doesn't matter if the Auditor General and the Courts play a role in the current constitutional procedure. If the Section 3 amendment changes their roles, it goes beyond "structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV." They are not Article IV offices.

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