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Madigan not a plaintiff or judge in Independent Map suit, but he's responsible in the end
When the Illinois Supreme Court issued its decision on Aug. 25 rejecting the Independent Map Amendment as unconstitutional and ineligible to be put before voters in November, reaction was swift and nearly unanimous in focusing on House Speaker Michael Madigan as the culprit.
Madigan wasn’t a plaintiff in the lawsuit that doomed the Independent Map Amendment, but as the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and a vocal opponent of this and an earlier redistricting reform effort, his fingerprints were all over it.
Also troubling to many supporters was the fact that the seven member Illinois Supreme Court, who are elected to the bench, split along party lines, with Democrats carrying the majority in a 4-3 decision.
While pundits portrayed Madigan as everything from a monarch to a despot to a fighter in a rigged match, the most stinging criticism of the decision came from the court itself, with all three Republican justices writing dissents.
In the most stinging dissent, Justice Bob Thomas said the decision nullified the part of the state constitution that’s supposed to give citizens a way to keep the power of the Legislature in check.
“…(T)he majority has irrevocably severed a vital lifeline created by the drafters for the express purpose of enabling later generations of Illinoisans to use their sovereign authority as a check against self-interest by the legislature,” Thomas writes. “When the Reporter of Decisions sends out the majority’s disposition, he should include a bright orange warning sticker for readers to paste over article XIV, section 3, of their personal copies of the 1970 Constitution reading, ‘Out of Service.'”
The ruling did no less than stifle democracy and replace it with judicial fiat, Thomas writes.
“Today a muzzle has been placed on the people of this State, and their voices supplanted with judicial fiat,” writes Thomas. “The whimper you hear is democracy stifled. I join that muted chorus of dissent.”
There’s still hope for a system that removes the politics from drawing legislative district boundaries in Illinois. But the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling made one thing abundantly clear. It’s probably not going happen until Michael Madigan wants it to.
If you’re planning to start a business, your success might depend on where you’re located — and if you want to stay in Illinois, one small city is one of…
Illinois Supreme Court
Independent Map Amendment
Matthew Dietrich is editor of Reboot Illinois. Dietrich is the former editorial page editor of the State Journal Register in Springfield, where he earned awards including being named 2011 editorial writer of the year by GateHouse Media. His 25-year newspaper career included reporting at the Hudson Dispatch in Union City, N.J., the New York Post and The Capital Times of Madison, Wis. A graduate of Saint Louis University who holds a masters degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dietrich lives in Springfield with his wife and four children and splits time between Springfield and Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at@MattReboot. For perspective on Dietrich's thoughts on Illinois government, read his take on the leadership vacuum that sent Illinois sinking. Follow him on Twitter at @rebootillinois.