Abernathy, Independent Maps supporters await state high court's ruling
Dawn Abernathy, the Republican candidate for the District 59 state House seat, recently reminded voters that election season is around the corner and wondered whether outcomes will lean toward constituents’ geographic rights or secure “elite” leadership for another term.
“The August 26 deadline is fast approaching,” Abernathy said on Facebook. "Will the Illinois Supreme Court act on behalf of the people of Illinois, or (will) the political elite that want to 'rig’ elections with gerrymandered districts … remain in power? We shall know soon enough."
Fellow supporters of the Independent Map Amendment coalition recently called on the Illinois Supreme Court to put the measure on the ballot in November. The group filed a brief with the high court following the lower-court decision to ban the initiative from the ballot, arguing that the ruling mistakenly interprets the State Constitution and contradicts the law. The brief said that if allowed to stand, the decision would “nullify the constitutional rights of Illinois citizens” to craft redistricting amendments.
“The language of the Illinois Constitution and legislative history of the convention debates are indisputable,” Dennis FitzSimons, chairman of the Independent Maps coalition, said. “Redistricting reform is clearly a topic that can be addressed by a citizen-initiated amendment, and the Independent Map Amendment is exactly what the men and women who wrote the Constitution had in mind when they granted Illinoisans this power.”
The brief said the framers of the State Constitution identified redistricting as one of the “critical” areas that voters could address in a citizen-initiated amendment. While citizen-initiated amendments are limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in the legislative article, the Constitution’s “limited to” language was designed to prevent initiatives on substantive issues such as taxes, abortion or the death penalty. But the language was not intended to stifle creativity of initiatives related to the legislature.
“The circuit court reached the wrong conclusion because it refused to interpret the redistricting initiative in a common-sense manner,” the brief said. “Under these circumstances, denying Illinois voters the right to vote on the redistricting initiative would deprive all of the citizens of Illinois of an important constitutional right reserved to the people by the 1970 Constitution.”
The brief also said redistricting initiative provisions seek to improve the process by establishing more objective standards to minimize self-interest or partisanship.
“The more-than-560,000 Illinoisans who signed our petitions to put this important reform on the ballot are counting on the Supreme Court to rule that this amendment be placed before voters in November,” FitzSimons said. “And the many, many more Illinoisans frustrated by the lack of competition in legislative elections and the performance of the state legislature deserve an opportunity to repair the broken system that legislators refuse to reform.”