As part of a bipartisan, eight-state effort to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to end the practice of political gerrymandering, State Senator Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) joined 65 current and former lawmakers in support of an Amicus Curie brief filed in the Supreme Court this week.
Connelly and other lawmakers made their argument as amici in Gill v Whitford, a redistricting case in which a U.S. District court found that the State of Wisconsin used partisan gerrymandering to create the state’s legislative district map, violating protections given to voters by the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The case will be argued before the Supreme Court on October 3, 2017.
“Modern-day partisan gerrymandering undermines the democratic process and is an effective tool by which a select few politicians are able to methodically and effectively shut out the opposing party, preserving the power of one party at the expense of the voters,” said Connelly. “As noted in the brief, ‘voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.’ I’m proud to join like-minded colleagues as part of an effort to urge the Court to safeguard democracy from the gross political gerrymandering that is all-too-evident in Illinois.”
The Amicus brief itself points out that “few tools for political entrenchment have corrupted our democracy more than modern-day gerrymandering,” and further notes that “powerful software and detailed, block-by-block voter data enable redistricting plans that give one party huge partisan advantages that survive shifts in voter preferences and demographics.”
Connelly underscored that it is important Illinois is represented in the brief, stressing that if the Supreme Court finds Wisconsin did use partisan gerrymandering, that decision could play a factor in future efforts to strike down political gerrymandering in Illinois.
“Illinois’ legislative districts are drawn with one purpose: to create and maintain political power. Through the last redistricting process, Democrats drew Illinois’ map to their advantage, splitting up similar communities while at the same time combining dissimilar communities,” Connelly explained. “This extreme gerrymandering weakens the representative government to which all Illinois citizens are entitled. It’s important the Supreme Court intervene with some clear direction on how we can eliminate political gerrymandering in our state and ensure Illinois residents are no longer shut out of the political process.”
Connelly joined 26 Republicans and 39 Democrats from Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Maryland in the suit. Twelve Illinois Senators and five Illinois State Representatives are part of the coalition, including Illinois Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), and State Senators Dan McConchie (R- Hawthorn Woods), Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles), Chris Nybo (R-Elmhurst), Sue Rezin (R-Peru), Dale Righter (R-Mattoon), Chapin Rose (R-Champaign), Ira Syverson (R-Rockford), Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Jil Tracy (R-Quincy), and Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria), and State Representatives David Olsen (R-Downer Grove), DeScott Drury (D-Highwood), Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago), Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) and Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley).