State Sen. Bill Brady said Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering makes it even more important for Illinois lawmakers to put a nonpartisan map-drawing referendum on the ballot.
The Supreme Court ruled that federal courts have no role to play in policing political districts drawn for partisan gain. The decision could embolden political line-drawing for partisan gain when state lawmakers undertake the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census.
Illinois’ state and federal legislative districts are carved up lawmakers themselves—typically Democrats who have the majority in Springfield. Brady, a Republican from Bloomington, supports the creation a 16-member commission, appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court, to draw those maps instead. He’s one of 37 co-sponsors of a resolution that, if approved in Springfield, would ask voters on a statewide ballot in 2020 if they want to enact the court-appointed commission.
“The fact that we’ve eliminated this one course of action (with the Supreme Court ruling) really points to how much we do need to pass this Senate resolution to move forward,” Brady told WGLT.
My statement on today's #USSC ruling on political gerrymandering: "We need to take the power of drawing legislative maps away from politicians and put it in the hands of the people.” https://t.co/C3XIJdJoe7 #twill
— Bill Brady (@SenBillBrady) June 27, 2019
The Supreme Court justices said by a 5-4 vote Thursday that claims of partisan gerrymandering do not belong in federal court. The court’s conservative, Republican-appointed majority says that voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is a political dispute. The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland.
Brady said the ruling could help supporters make the case in Illinois for so-called “fair maps.” Lawmakers shouldn’t be the ones drawing their own maps, he said.
“This doesn’t help the Republican Party any more than it does the Democratic Party. It just gives power back to the people, where it should be,” said Brady, the Senate minority leader.
Co-sponsors of the “fair maps” resolution (SJR-CA 4) include Republicans Jason Barickman from Bloomington and Chapin Rose from Mahomet, and Democrats Andy Manar of Bunker Hill and Heather Steans of Chicago. Brady said they’re pushing Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, to call the resolution for a vote during the fall veto session.
Before his election, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he too supported fair maps, which puts him at odds with House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat.
"The governor believes it is important that all communities are represented in government and that truly competitive elections are essential for our democracy," Pritzker spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh said Thursday. "The governor has pledged he will veto a partisan map."
Polling suggests the public favors the idea too. A spring 2019 survey of Illinois voters found 67% supported a proposed constitutional amendment to have legislative district maps created by an independent commission, according to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.