Editorials

Illinois justices must give voters a chance to end incumbents’ tyranny

Local state legislative districts are not compact and do not group voters by interests. East St. Louis and Lebanon voters have few common interests but share a representative. Same with Venice and Swansea voters, who also share a state representative.
Local state legislative districts are not compact and do not group voters by interests. East St. Louis and Lebanon voters have few common interests but share a representative. Same with Venice and Swansea voters, who also share a state representative. Provided

Second Amendment debates often center on the “well regulated militia” aspect of U.S. citizens having guns. Some argue that our military makes that aspect antique and allows for greater curbs on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.

So beyond the words we must go and seek original meanings and add context. The constitutional drafters based the right on English common law, and their convention debates made clear that they wanted the people to be able to defend themselves, to be able to fight oppression and to be able to join together to defend their country.

The Illinois Supreme Court finds itself facing a question in which it, too, must seek clarity in intent, and not just interpret the bare words, to ensure and foster democracy.

The Independent Map Amendment ballot question was rejected by the four Democrats on the state high court. They said the Illinois Constitution allows citizens to petition for amendments limited to “structural and procedural” changes to the legislature. They decided that allowing an independent commission to draw the state’s legislative districts did not fit into that “plain language,” in part because changes went beyond lawmakers by adding duties to the state comptroller and to the justices themselves.

The three Republican justices who dissented to the decision said the phrase was clearly intended to allow the changes sought in the petition signed by 563,974 Illinois voters. Then if you look at the constitutional debates, the phrase is clearly aimed at such a change.

The group that has spearheaded this change is now asking the state justices to reconsider their decision, in part because they failed in their charge to explain how the map amendment could ever pass muster. Getting a reconsideration will be tough, because it takes four votes and the four who voted against independent maps are unlikely to change their minds.

That is, unless one justice decides to reconsider the issue for show. Or unless one decides to follow his conscience, the law and the original intent of the 1970 Illinois Constitution’s authors as opposed to following Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s dictates.

This issue has been partisan because the party in power stands to lose. It shouldn’t be partisan, though, because both parties have sinned when it came to redistricting and created safe havens for incumbents with little concern for creating compact districts that best served voters and their interests.

The party in power doesn’t believe they can win the debate about independently drawn legislative districts, so they are refusing to let Illinois voters have the chance to even be asked the question.

Remember, that other very liberal Democratic U.S. senator from Illinois, the one with the Nobel Peace Prize and who became president, called on the nation’s politicians to stop drawing districts that let them pick voters instead of maps that let voters pick them.

The Illinois Supreme Court got it wrong, and they now have an opportunity to make it right by letting voters face the question they overwhelmingly want to be asked. With that question begins the revolution needed in the morally and fiscally bankrupt Land of Lincoln.

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