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Former Gov. Quinn proposes his own redistricting plan

Former Gov. Pat Quinn announced a plan to amend the state constitution to reform voter map redistricting. He held a proposal that was recently struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court at the Thompson Center Tuesday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Former Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday unveiled his own plan for redistricting, which he dubbed “clean and pristine” — just days after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled a voter referendum-driven change unconstitutional.

The Independent Maps coalition, a group of bipartisan business leaders and former elected officials, gathered petitions calling for an 11-member commission to be in charge of drawing legislative district lines. Currently, the party in power runs political mapmaking.

But the Supreme Court ruled that the redistricting referendum ran afoul of constitutional provisions designed to “protect the integrity of this state’s constitution” and violated “clear restrictions on the scope of permissible ballot initiatives.”

The ruling last week meant that the referendum to change how the state draws political boundaries won’t appear on the November ballot. The decision fell along partisan lines with four Democratic justices voting to affirm a lower court’s ruling against the referendum and three Republicans dissenting.

Under Quinn’s plan, the Illinois Supreme Court would nominate 11 people to a fair map redistricting commission with no more than six belonging to the same party. That group would have six months to hold hearings and to draw a map for the legislative districts. That map — approved by seven of them — wouldn’t have to go to the Legislature and would be automatically filed with the Secretary of State.

Quinn’s proposal also eliminates the role of the auditor general, which the Supreme Court rejected in its ruling. And it removes the role of the General Assembly’s leaders in picking members for the commission, which the Independent Maps group sought.

Quinn said he’s qualified to propose a plan because he successfully changed the Illinois Constitution with a referendum to cut the size of the Illinois Legislature by a third in 1980. The former governor, who lost to Gov. Bruce Rauner in a contentious election, said he hopes to get Rauner’s support with his plan, which he hopes to be a “bipartisan, nonpartisan” effort.

“I hope he agrees with this. I think anyone who is truly concerned about remapping reform, redistricting reform should go along with the proposal that I’ve outlined,” Quinn said. “I have experience in getting this done. I haven’t seen that happen in his case. He can talk about things but you got to have outcomes.”

Quinn plans to propose his plan to the Independent Map organizers in the hopes that voters would be able to vote in a 2018 referendum on a redistricting reform amendment. If adopted, the plan would be in effect for 2021 redistricting.

“I think this is the proper way and the cleanest way, the simplest way and the best way to get reform that Illinois citizens, I think, want in great numbers,” Quinn said.

Quinn said his plan “takes out a lot of words, a lot of the verbage” that “tripped” up the Supreme Court. At a press conference in Chicago, Quinn held up the two referendums, with his just a fraction in size of the referendum rejected last week.

The Supreme Court decision is considered a blow to Rauner, who has argued for months that changing how the state draws political boundaries is crucial to restore public confidence in government. It’s part of the governor’s Turnaround Agenda, and a key item he’s been pushing ahead of the November election, along with term limits.

Rauner supported the Independent Maps proposal, which he hoped would make the mapmaking process more competitive, and would challenge the longstanding political careers of lawmakers, such as Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan. Madigan was in opposition to the plan, saying it would disenfranchise minorities. Mike Kasper, general counsel for the Illinois Democratic Party, filed a lawsuit in May trying to block the Independent Maps proposal.

The Independent Maps coalition on Tuesday said they’re seeking a rehearing with the Supreme Court about the ruling.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Republican Party accused Quinn of being part of the redistricting mess, saying he signed into law today’s district maps in 2011.

“Pat Quinn is the very reason Illinois doesn’t already have fair maps. In 2011, Quinn signed into law the gerrymandered district lines we have today,” spokesman Steven Yaffe said in a statement. “Instead of standing up for reform when he was in charge of the state, Quinn worked with Mike Madigan to rig the political system in their favor. We don’t need Pat Quinn to fix Pat Quinn’s map.”