SPRINGFIELD - In a 4 to 3 vote between Democrat- and Republican-funded justices, Thursday the Illinois Supreme Court denied Illinois voters a voice in how the state draws its legislative districts.
“Today's ruling is a harsh reminder that the political system in Illinois is in need of major reforms," Governor Bruce Rauner said in a statement. "I hope the decision to deny voters the chance to consider the Independent Map redistricting referendum is appealed and reversed."
The Court's ruling may be disappointing to the Governor, but the majority's ruling is no surprise because the four justices that ruled in Speaker Mike Madigan's favor were heavily funded by the Illinois Democrat Party faitful - of which Speaker Madigan is the longtime state chairman.
Justice Thomas Kilbride wrote the majority's opinion in favor of those opposing a referendum on the November ballot . Of the $2.5 million raised for Justice Kilbride's 2010 retention campaign, nearly $1.5 million came from Madigan's Illinois Democrat Party. The Illinois Federation of Teachers backed Kilbride with several hundred thousands.
Justice Anne Burke is married to Speaker Madigan's longtime close political confidante, Democrat Chicago Alderman Ed Burke. Mary Jane Theis was first appointed by Democrats and ran for retention in the Democrat primary and won retention in 2012 with the help of her party leadership. The fourth justice that made up the majority decision is Charles Freeman, who the Illinois Democrat Party supported in 2000, and beyond.
Chief Justice Rita Garman, who ran as a Republican, wrote in her dissention that the people of Illinois should have an opportunity to vote:
Article XIV, section 3, was included in our constitution to provide the people of this state with the power to act in situations where it is against the legislature’s self interest to do so. Redistricting is clearly such an issue. Those elected have an incentive to draw maps that will help them remain in office. Pursuant to article XIV, section 3, the people of Illinois should have an opportunity to vote on whether the redistricting process controlled by the legislature ought to be amended.
Justice Bob Thomas, also a Republican, was just as outspoken in his opinion, saying the Illinois constitution should now hang a sign, "Out of service." He wrote:
The Illinois constitution is meant to prevent tyranny, not to enshrine it.
Today, just as a critical election board deadline is about to expire, four members of our court have delivered, as a fait accompli, nothing less than the nullification of a critical component of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.
In direct contradiction of the clear and unambiguous intention of the people who drafted the constitution and the citizens who voted to adopt it, the majority has irrevocably severed a vital lifeline created by the drafters for the express purpose of enabling later generations of Illinoisans to use their sovereign authority as a check against self-interest by the legislature.
When the Reporter of Decisions sends out the majority’s disposition, he should include a bright orange warning sticker for readers to paste over article XIV, section 3, of their personal copies of the 1970 Constitution reading, “Out of Service.”
And Justice Lloyd Karmeier, after writing page after page of rationale for his disagreement with the majority, wrote the following agreeing with his Republican colleagues, saying the point is "the voters alone should decide:"
Finally, nothing in what I have written here should be construed as an expression of support for the proposed ballot initiative. Whether the initiative should be adopted is a question for the voters and the voters alone to decide. Our role is here is limited to determining whether Independent Maps’ otherwise valid initiative meets the requirements of article XIV, section 3, and is therefore eligible for inclusion on the ballot at the November 8, 2016, general election. In the exercise of that responsibility, I would hold that it does.
A comprehensive list of non-partisan election-interested groups joined the League of Women Voters' friend of the court opinion, siding with Justices Garman, Thomas and Karmeier, including the Small Business Advocacy Council Illinois, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, CHANGE Illinois, Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, McCormick Foundation, Union League Club of Chicago, West Rogers Park Community Organization, Illinois Farm Bureau, Better Government Association, Chicago Southside Branch NAACP, Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Planning Council, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, Latino Policy Forum, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, Common Cause, Citizen Advocacy Center, the Civic Federation, Commercial Club of Chicago, Chicago Embassy Church, and Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The Independent Map Amendment organization says their attorneys are reviewing the opinion and will determine whether they will ask the court to reconsider.