CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of 65 current and former state lawmakers from 8 states, including Illinois, have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking justices to rule political gerrymandering unconstitutional.
The case, from Wisconsin, challenges the legitimacy of the political practice of lawmakers drawing the boundaries for legislative districts, essentially choosing their constituents instead of the other way around.
Last year, approximately 570,000 Illinois voters signed petitions to put a proposal on the November ballot to change the way state lawmakers redraw the House and Senate maps every 10 years. The Illinois Supreme Court struck down that proposed referendum, ruling the measure violated the state constitution’s rules for such voter-backed ballot initiatives.
The measure would have given the state’s auditor general authority to select members of an independent commission to draw new maps.
Illinois State Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) said the current method of having lawmakers decide the new boundaries for their own districts leads to cynicism among voters.
“There’s a great deal of cynicism, especially after we get hundreds of thousands of signatures on ballots that the court finds unconstitutional,” he said. “Going to the Supreme Court is the point of relief that was what our founding fathers intended.”
Pritchard was one of several Illinois lawmakers, among 26 Republicans and 39 Democrats from across the U.S., who filed briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject partisan gerrymandering.
“Political gerrymandering has just come to such a precise science that legislators are picking their constituents, rather than the other way around, and I know we’ve tried a couple of times to put a constitutional amendment on the Illinois ballot, but those have always been ruled unconstitutional,” he said.
The attempt to have the nation’s highest court ban political gerrymandering is the largest effort to date to end the process, and Pritchard said he likes the chances of success.
“There’s really a great opportunity here to help a number of states that have problems similar to Illinois, and it’s not just a Democratic problem, it’s a Republican problem as well, where we craft the districts to suit the political need, rather than the policy need of representing our citizens,” Pritchard said.
The court will hear arguments in the case next month.