On Friday, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva issued a ruling that effectively ended the redistricting reform efforts of Yes for Independent Maps. Citing previously rejected ballot initiatives, she rejected the group's initiative, saying:
"Precedent dictates a very narrow provision for allowing the voters to directly enact amendments to the Illinois Constitution of 1970."
Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution states that "Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV," referring to the state Legislature. Along with the redistricting initiative, Mikva also rejected a term limits proposal trumpeted by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.The redistricting initiative was designed for an 11-member panel and prohibited commission members from holding office for 10 years following their service on the panel. Part of Mikva's ruling was based on this component of the proposal. She wrote that it
limits the political activities of panel members and went beyond changing the "structural and procedural" dimensions of the Legislature.
Other problems also plagued the remapping effort.
A sample of signatures by the Illinois State Board of Elections found that the group lacked the necessary 300,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. A lawyer for the opposition charged the group with duplicating pages of signatures to reach the requisite number.
With Yes for Independent Maps declining to appeal the ruling, its campaign to appear on the November 2014 ballot has officially come to an end.
After the ruling, the group's chair, Deborah Harrington, said:
"We have concluded that we are not going to proceed in this election cycle. . . . Instead, we will put the lessons learned in this campaign and from the judge's ruling to good use."
The good news for Yes for Independent Maps or any other potential remapping group is that there is still time to fight for redistricting reform in the future.
Even if the group had been successful, the redistricting initiative would not have overturned current electoral maps, and the reform would not have been enacted until after the 2020 U.S. Census. The inability to pass judicial scrutiny and clear the Illinois State Board of Elections only means the proposal will not appear on the 2014 ballot, but does not prevent the group from advancing the cause in the future.
Harrington also said:
"We still have at least two more statewide elections -- in 2016 and 2018 -- to bring a redistricting amendment before voters and an opportunity to revise the language to address Judge Mikva's objections."
The influence of district maps is evident in Illinois.
Prior to the 2010 U.S. Census, Republicans led the state's delegation with 11 representatives compared to 8 Democrats. After the census, Democratic lawmakers designed new electoral maps without Republican input. The delegation switched to 6 Republicans and 12 Democrats following the 2012 elections.
In the other proposal struck down by Mikva, the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits has vowed to appeal the decision.