Independent Maps Files Final Brief to the Illinois Supreme Court


In a final brief presented to the Illinois Supreme Court, attorneys for Independent Maps argued a lower court’s ruling against the constitutionality of the redistricting reform amendment is contrary to both the intent of the drafters of the 1970 Illinois Constitution and the plain language of the constitution’s provision allowing voters to propose amendments.

If the Cook County Circuit Court ruling is not reversed, it “would eviscerate the constitutional right conferred on the people of Illinois by the 1970 Constitution to bypass self-interested legislators and directly propose needed reforms,” according to the brief filed Tuesday.

“If you read the debates of the constitutional convention, it is clear that the drafters created an amendment initiative process to allow Illinoisans to propose changes in critical areas where legislators have too much self-interest and would resist change,” said Dennis FitzSimons, Chair of Independent Maps. “Legislators currently can draw district boundaries to help their own chances of winning the next election, making redistricting a prime example of legislative self-interest where citizens need to step in and propose reform. It is up to the Illinois Supreme Court to restore the democratic rights of Illinoisans and let voters decide whether to amend their state constitution.”

The brief argues that the lawsuit filed against the Independent Map Amendment ignores the constitutional convention debates and so narrowly interprets what the constitution allows to be amended by citizen initiative that “it would be impossible for anyone to put a meaningful proposal for redistricting reform on the ballot.”

Similar to reforms enacted by voters in California and Arizona, the Independent Map Amendment would create an independent commission to draw legislative district boundaries without regard to incumbency or partisanship. It would protect the voting rights of racial and ethnic minorities and allow the public to view and participate in redistricting.

The opposition argued in court that the amendment must be “limited to” structural and procedural subjects, and the Independent Maps briefs argues it meets that test. Redistricting is a structural and procedural subject of the constitution’s legislative article, and everything in the proposed amendment relates directly to – and only to – redistricting, according to the brief.

“The defenders of the status quo are trying to sell an argument that our amendment is unconstitutional because, for example, it involves the Auditor General and Supreme Court in the once-a-decade administration of the redistricting process,” FitzSimons said. “But the amendment does not affect the auditing duties of the Auditor General and only creates a new role limited to redistricting, and the Supreme Court would only be involved when there is a deadlock, as is the case now.

“To remove partisan politics from the redistricting process, the commission selection process must be insulated from partisan politics,” FitzSimons said. “If that’s not permitted, it will be impossible to give voters the right to the citizen initiative process envisioned by the framers of the constitution.”

More than 563,000 Illinois voters signed petitions to put the Independent Map Amendment on the November ballot, and a diverse coalition of two dozen businesses, consumer and public interest organizations has urged the Supreme Court “to allow democracy to prevail and to let the people have their vote” on the Independent Map Amendment.