By Jim Nowlan
I became involved with the Judicial Fairness Project as an outlet for my simmering outrage over a 2016 Illinois Supreme Court decision. A partisan decision that year by the court’s 4-3 Democratic majority denied our state’s voters the opportunity to say if they preferred redistricting by an independent commission—over the contorted, wormlike districts drawn this year to protect incumbent Democrats.
Background: The 1970 Illinois Constitution explicitly provides that its Legislative Article may be amended by petition and a subsequent vote of the people. In 2016, more than half a million voters signed petitions to put the independent mapping question on the ballot. I was a volunteer in that effort.
But, after certification of the question onto the ballot by the Illinois State Board of Elections, the four Democrats on the Illinois Supreme Court threw the question off the ballot, in the most cockamamie opinion since the Dred Scott decision, which precipitated the Civil War!
All close observers of Illinois politics agree that the tortured, illogical opinion by Judge Tom Kilbride was written solely to protect his political benefactor, recently deposed Speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan. Powerful House leader for three decades, Madigan hated the idea that power over redistricting would be taken away from him. (If interested in more on this, go to jimnowlan.com and search under “redistricting.”)
The opinion gave free rein to continued partisan gerrymandering. So, this year the Democrats, who control the Illinois General Assembly in large part because of past gerrymandering, drew an incredibly distorted set of state legislative and congressional districts. The maps ensure Democratic representation far greater than the proportion of Democrat to Republican voters statewide.
The Illinois Constitution explicitly requires that districts be “compact” in shape. Yet, many of the new districts are shaped like slithering worms, which connect distant nodes of Democrat voters. You doubt me? Click here to see a number of the districts that are required by the state constitution to be compact. Now, tell me if those districts are compact!
But that’s unconstitutional, right? Not in Illinois. Indeed, Republican leaders in Illinois are so jaundiced by the historic partisan decision making from the state high court that they decided to put the party’s limited resources elsewhere. This, rather than fritter its funds away on a court challenge they were certain would be rejected by the Democrat court, just as it had rejected challenges to gerrymandering in the past! Sad.
All this is perfectly legal, to the Illinois Supreme Court, anyway—and perfectly corrupt. Time for a change, after 60 straight years of one-party control of the Illinois Supreme Court. Let’s lift our courts above partisanship, to an independent-minded judiciary.