United StatesIllinois

After ComEd patronage scandal, group calls again for independent political map-making

Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, watches the proceedings from the Speaker’s platform during the spring legislative session at the Bank of Springfield Center Friday, May 22, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Illinois lawmakers may have missed their chance to put a question on the November ballot about redistricting reform but a fair maps advocate says the ongoing controversy over corruption in Springfield should be enough for them to change state law.

Illinois was in the throes of its COVID-19 pandemic when the constitutional deadline to put a fair maps question on the November election ballot.

Change Illinois, a nonprofit long-supportive of taking the legislative map changes out of the hands of lawmakers, said the bribery scheme admitted by Commonwealth Edison should be enough for lawmakers to embrace an advisory redistricting commission.

“ComEd has admitted elaborate corrupt activities in an attempt to win the favor of House Speaker Michael Madigan,” said Madeleine Doubek, CHANGE Illinois Executive Director.

Particularly troubling, she said, is the fact that a former ComEd CEO and one of the company’s top lobbyists filed the legal objection that ultimately kept redistricting reform off of the 2018 ballot.

“Because former top ComEd officials were at the center of an extensive effort to block the independent redistricting that threatens a key component of the Speaker’s control, Illinois officials now should demonstrate a commitment to unprecedented independence and transparency before redistricting next occurs,” Doubek said.

Former ComEd CEO Frank Clark and Madigan ally John Hooker hired long-time Democratic Party of Illinois Counsel Michael Kasper to represent them in the challenge to the ballot initiative. Kasper’s law firm also represented ComEd as a lobbying entity at the time, according to Secretary of State records.

Madigan has not been charged with any crimes and denies wrongdoing. He’s long-opposed redistricting efforts, saying they silence the voices of minorities in the legislature.

If Illinois lawmakers want to restore the public’s faith in them, Doubek said enacting something similar to the Fair Maps Amendment is the first step.

“Previously gerrymandered political maps in Illinois have stifled competitive elections, driving down participation in a form of voter suppression,” Doubek added. “We ask the Governor, the Speaker, the Senate President, and every state lawmaker to stand for and support adoption of a law that demonstrates a commitment to an open, independent and accountable redistricting process so that every Illinoisan has faith they have been counted, their maps are not rigged, and their interests are represented first and foremost.”

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