Follow @csteditorialsLast week’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling that knocked an anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment off the Nov. 8 ballot was a big setback for democracy in our state, but reformers can’t give up.
Gerrymandering — drawing the borders of voting jurisdictions in a way to favor one political party or another — has been around since at least 1812, when Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry drew up jig-sawed district borders to gain a political edge. Ending the practice won’t happen overnight, and it will take a grassroots rebellion. The pols who now draw the lines, effectively making your vote irrelevant, love things just the way they are.
Follow @csteditorialsSupporters of the latest effort to put redistricting reform on the ballot through citizen petitions will decide this week whether to ask the court to reconsider its decision, which would be a long shot. And if that goes nowhere, it’s none too early to start planning another petition drive for the 2018 election. The next remapping of legislative districts in Illinois will take place in 2021.
The Supreme Court nixed the amendment as unconstitutional because a panel that would have helped decide which commissioners would draw new maps would have included the state auditor general. That, the Court ruled, put the reform, as written, beyond “structure and procedure” issues of the Legislature that could be submitted to a citizen initiative. The auditor general, although selected by the Legislature, is not a member of that body.
Unfortunately, the court didn’t address other issues in the lawsuit challenging the amendment, so the legal path forward is not as clear as it could be. But it’s important to note the court did not rule that redistricting reform itself is out of bounds for a citizen initiative.
Reformers just have to find the right wording for an amendment that will fly with the court. Until then, consider your vote — especially in state legislative and congressional elections — as essentially grounded.