CHICAGO - Perhaps before blasting the effort to make the remapping process fairer as being a Republican political ploy, House Speaker Mike Madigan should have been reminded by spokesman Steve Brown that "Yes for Independent Maps" is headed up by a Democrat strategist.
“Over the last 50 years, five maps,” Madigan said. “Republicans have done one out of five. They’re angry, and this is part of their Republican politics. That’s all there is.
Michael Kolenc, the effort's chief organizer, resisted questions from Illinois Review about his own political preferences and his campaign experience, but said that he had worked for one of Illinois' top Democrats.
"I really don't want this to be about me," Kolenc said, "You can Google me to find out my campaign background. On the record, though, I will say that I worked for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin."
Kolenc worked on several Democrat races in the Houston Texas area before coming to Illinois to oversee the independent mapping petition campaign. He said Speaker Madigan's assertions that the effort to make the remapping process fairer was a Republican political ploy was ridiculous.
"We have been all over the state and Democrats, Republicans and independents are frustrated with the way Illinois draws congressional and legislative maps," he said. "We are absolutely not alighed with any particular political party."
Kolenc steered away from saying how many signatures they had obtained on the Independent Mapping effort, but said they will be ready to file with the State Board of Elections on May 1.
The state constitution puts no limit on the number of citizen-driven constitutional amendments that may appear on the November ballot. If the referendum was to receive support from a simple majority of those voting in the General Election, the state constitution would be amended with the referendum's wording.
However, just getting the signatures turned in is the first step. Kolenc told supporters Wednesday night that he expects a legal challenge to keep the referendum off the ballot.
"It should be no surprise, but the status quo in Springfield has finally started their smear campaign. They are organizing back-room meetings with groups that get state money, they are saying that voting rights will suffer under an independent process, and they are gearing up to take us to court," Kolenc wrote.
"We always knew this bipartisan campaign would anger a few powerful individuals. We are ready for the campaign and ready to show that an independent, transparent and fair redistricting process is better for Illinoisans than back-room deal making."
Supporters of Yes for Independent Maps include Republican state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford and David Axelrod, a Democrat who has worked as a top adviser to President Barack Obama.