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Hooker v. Illinois State Board of Elections

Supreme Court of Illinois

August 25, 2016

JOHN HOOKER et al., Appellees,
v.
ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS et al. Support Independent Maps, Appellant.

          KILBRIDE JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Freeman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          KILBRIDE JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 This case addresses the question of whether the circuit court erroneously held that the redistricting initiative petition submitted by Support Independent Maps (Independent Maps) failed to comply with the requirements of article XIV, section 3, of our constitution (Ill Const. 1970, art. XIV, §3), thus precluding its inclusion on the ballot at the November 8, 2016, Illinois general election. On the grounds that the public interest requires a timely resolution of this matter, we granted Independent Maps' emergency motion to transfer the appeal from the appellate court. See Ill. S.Ct. Rule 302(b) (eff. Oct. 4, 2011). This court ordered expedited briefing that has now been completed. We also granted a group of business, consumer, and public interest organizations led by the League of Women Voters leave to file an amicus curiae brief in support of Independent Maps pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 345 (Ill. S.Ct. Rule 345, eff. Sept. 20, 2010). Reviewing the merits of the appeal before us, we now affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The Illinois Constitution of 1970 may be amended by three methods: (1) constitutional convention (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 1); (2) "[a]mendments by General Assembly" (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 2); and (3) ballot initiatives (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3). Ballot initiatives, the method at issue here, may only be used for amendments directed at "structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV" of the constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3; Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV), pertaining to Illinois's legislative branch. The ballot initiative at issue addresses redistricting, the process used to redraw the legislative and representative districts following each federal decennial census (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, § 3).

         ¶ 4 In May 2016, Independent Maps filed with the Secretary of State a petition proposing the amendment of article IV, section 3, of the constitution, to replace the current system for redrawing Illinois's legislative and representative districts. That section currently provides:

"(a) Legislative Districts shall be compact, contiguous and substantially equal in population. Representative Districts shall be compact, contiguous, and substantially equal in population.
(b) In the year following each Federal decennial census year, the General Assembly by law shall redistrict the Legislative Districts and the Representative Districts.
If no redistricting plan becomes effective by June 30 of that year, a Legislative Redistricting Commission shall be constituted not later than July 10. The Commission shall consist of eight members, no more than four of whom shall be members of the same political party.
The Speaker and Minority Leader of the House of Representatives shall each appoint to the Commission one Representative and one person who is not a member of the General Assembly. The President and Minority Leader of the Senate shall each appoint to the Commission one Senator and one person who is not a member of the General Assembly.
The members shall be certified to the Secretary of State by the appointing authorities. A vacancy on the Commission shall be filled within five days by the authority that made the original appointment. A Chairman and Vice Chairman shall be chosen by a majority of all members of the Commission.
Not later than August 10, the Commission shall file with the Secretary of State a redistricting plan approved by at least five members.
If the Commission fails to file an approved redistricting plan, the Supreme Court shall submit the names of two persons, not of the same political party, to the Secretary of State not later than September 1.
Not later than September 5, the Secretary of State publicly shall draw by random selection the name of one of the two persons to serve as the ninth member of the Commission.
Not later than October 5, the Commission shall file with the Secretary of State a redistricting plan approved by at least five members.
An approved redistricting plan filed with the Secretary of State shall be presumed valid, shall have the force and effect of law and shall be published promptly by the Secretary of State.
The Supreme Court shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction over actions concerning redistricting the House and Senate, which shall be initiated in the name of the People of the State by the Attorney General." Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, § 3.

         ¶ 5 Since the adoption of the 1970 Constitution, the General Assembly has agreed on a districting plan without resort to the backup provisions only once, after the most recent federal census. Pub. Act 97-6 (eff. June 3, 2011). Following each of the other four decennial censuses, the formation of a redistricting commission has been necessary. People ex rel. Scott v. Grivetti, 50 Ill.2d 156 (1971); Schrage v. State Board of Elections, 88 Ill.2d 87 (1981); People ex rel. Burris v. Ryan, 147 Ill.2d 270 (1992); Cole-Randazzo v. Ryan, 198 Ill.2d 233 (2001); Beaubien v. Ryan, 198 Ill.2d 294 (2001).[1] In three out of those four occasions, the commission has deadlocked, triggering the selection of an additional member to break the tie through the drawing of lots. See Schrage, 88 Ill.2d at 92; Burris, 147 Ill.2d at 277 (1991); Beaubien, 198 Ill.2d at 299. While that process has been criticized, it has withstood federal constitutional challenge in the federal courts (Winters v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 197 F.Supp.2d 1110 (2001), aff'd, 535 U.S. 967 (2002)).

         ¶ 6 To replace the current system, Independent Maps' proposed amendment to article IV, section 3, would substitute an entirely new section 3 that fundamentally restructures the redistricting process. The General Assembly's role would be eliminated from the process, with primary responsibility for drawing legislative and representative districts falling to a new "Independent Redistricting Commission." Commission members would be selected through a process involving limited legislative input. Specifically, the provision proposed by Independent Maps provides:

"(a) The Independent Redistricting Commission comprising 11 Commissioners shall adopt and file with the Secretary of State a redistricting plan for Legislative Districts and Representative Districts by June 30 of the year following each Federal decennial census. Legislative Districts shall be contiguous and substantially equal in population. Representative Districts shall be contiguous and substantially equal in population. The redistricting plan shall comply with Federal law. Subject to the foregoing, the Commission shall apply the following criteria: (1) the redistricting plan shall not dilute or diminish the ability of a racial or language minority community to elect the candidates of its choice, including when voting in concert with other persons; (2) the redistricting plan shall respect the geographic integrity of units of local government; and (3) the redistricting plan shall respect the geographic integrity of communities sharing common social and economic interests, which do not include relationships with political parties or candidates for office. The redistricting plan shall not either intentionally or unduly discriminate against or intentionally or unduly favor any political party, political group or particular person. In designing the redistricting plan, the Commission shall consider party registration and voting history data only to assess compliance with the requirements in this subsection (a).
(b) For the purpose of conducting the Commissioner selection process, an Applicant Review Panel comprising three Reviewers shall be chosen in the following manner. Beginning not later than January 1 and ending not later than March 1 of the year in which the Federal decennial census occurs, the Auditor General shall request and accept applications to serve as a Reviewer. The Auditor General shall review all applications and select a pool of 30 potential Reviewers. The Auditor General should select applicants for the pool of potential Reviewers who would operate in an ethical and non-partisan manner by considering whether each applicant is a resident and registered voter of the State and has been for the four years preceding his or her application, has demonstrated understanding of and adherence to standards of ethical conduct and has been unaffiliated with any political party for the three years preceding appointment. By March 31 of the year in which the Federal decennial census occurs, the Auditor General shall publicly select by random draw the Panel of three Reviewers from the pool of potential Reviewers.
(c) Beginning not later than January 1 and ending not later than March 1 of the year in which the Federal decennial census occurs, the Auditor General shall request and accept applications to serve as a Commissioner on the Independent Redistricting Commission. By May 31, the Panel shall select a pool of 100 potential Commissioners. The Panel should select applicants for the pool of potential Commissioners who would be diverse and unaffected by conflicts of interest by considering whether each applicant is a resident and registered voter of the State and has been for the four years preceding his or her application, as well as each applicant's prior political experience, relevant analytical skills, ability to contribute to a fair redistricting process and ability to represent the demographic and geographic diversity of the State. The Panel shall act by affirmative vote of two Reviewers. All records of the Panel, including applications to serve on the Panel, shall be open for public inspection, except private information about applicants for which there is no compelling public interest in disclosure.
(d) Within 45 days after the Panel has selected the pool of 100 potential Commissioners, but not later than June 23 of the year in which the Federal decennial census occurs, the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and the President and Minority Leader of the Senate each may remove up to five of those potential Commissioners. Thereafter, but not later than June 30, the Panel shall publicly select seven Commissioners by random draw from the remaining pool of potential Commissioners; of those seven Commissioners, including any replacements, (1) the seven Commissioners shall reside among the Judicial Districts in the same proportion as the number of Judges elected therefrom under Section 3 of Article VI of this Constitution, (2) two Commissioners shall be affiliated with the political party whose candidate for Governor received the most votes cast in the last general election for Governor, two Commissioners shall be affiliated with the political party whose candidate for Governor received the second-most votes cast in such election and the remaining three Commissioners shall not be affiliated with either such political party and (3) no more than two Commissioners may be affiliated with the same political party. The Speaker and Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and the President and Minority Leader of the Senate each shall appoint one Commissioner from among the remaining applicants in the pool of potential Commissioners on the basis of the appointee's contribution to the demographic and geographic diversity of the Commission. A vacancy on the Panel or Commission shall be filled within five days by a potential Reviewer or potential Commissioner from among the applicants remaining in the pool of potential Reviewers or potential Commissioners, respectively, in the manner in which the office was previously filled.
(e) The Commission shall act in public meetings by affirmative vote of six Commissioners, except that approval of any redistricting plan shall require the affirmative vote of at least (1) seven Commissioners total, (2) two Commissioners from each political party whose candidate for Governor received the most and second[-]most votes cast in the last general election for Governor and (3) two Commissioners not affiliated with either such political party. The Commission shall elect its chairperson and vice chairperson, who shall not be affiliated with the same political party. Six Commissioners shall constitute a quorum. All meetings of the Commission attended by a quorum, except for meetings qualified under attorney-client privilege, shall be open to the public and publicly noticed at least two days prior to the meeting. All records of the Commission, including communications between Commissioners regarding the Commission's work, shall be open for public inspection, except for records qualified under attorney-client privilege. The Commission shall adopt rules governing its procedure, public hearings and the implementation of matters under this Section. The Commission shall hold public hearings throughout the state both before and after releasing the initial proposed redistricting plan. The Commission may not adopt a final redistricting plan unless the plan to be adopted without further amendment, and a report explaining its compliance with this Constitution, have been publicly noticed at least seven days before the final vote on such plan.
(f) If the Commission fails to adopt and file with the Secretary of State a redistricting plan by June 30 of the year following a Federal decennial census, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the most senior Judge of the Supreme Court who is not affiliated with the same political party as the Chief Justice shall appoint jointly by July 31 a Special Commissioner for Redistricting. The Special Commissioner shall adopt and file with the Secretary of State by August 31 a redistricting plan satisfying the requirements set forth in subsection (a) of this Section and a report explaining its compliance with this Constitution. The Special Commissioner shall hold at least one public hearing in the State before releasing his or her initial proposed redistricting plan and at least one public hearing in a different location in the State after releasing his or her initial proposed redistricting plan and before filing the final redistricting plan with the Secretary of State. All records of the Special Commissioner shall be open for public inspection, except for records qualified under attorney-client privilege.
(g) An adopted redistricting plan filed with the Secretary of State shall be presumed valid and shall be published promptly by the Secretary of State.
(h) The Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction in cases relating to matters under this Section."

         ¶ 7 Independent Maps filed a petition to bring this proposed amendment before the voters by using the ballot initiative process governed by article XIV, section 3, of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3). That provision requires petitions seeking to amend article IV to be signed by "a number of electors equal in number to at least eight percent of the total votes cast for candidates for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election." Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3. The State Board of Elections determined that the petition received more than the required number of valid signatures.

         ¶ 8 Five days after Independent Maps submitted its petition, a "taxpayer's suit" was filed in the circuit court of Cook County pursuant to section 11-303 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/11-303 (West 2014)). The lawsuit sought to enjoin the defendants from disbursing public funds to determine the petition's compliance with the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq. (West 2014)) or to place the proposal on the ballot at the upcoming November 2016 General Election. The complaint also requested declaratory relief.[2]

         ¶ 9 The action was filed by a political committee called People's Map, along with its chairperson, John Hooker, and individual members and leaders of other groups, [3]each alleged to be Illinois residents and taxpayers. The named defendants were the Board of Elections and its chairperson and members; Leslie Munger, the State Comptroller; Jesse White, the Secretary of State; Michael Frerichs, the State Treasurer; David Orr, the County Clerk of Cook County; and the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago, its chairperson and members. Later, the circuit court entered an agreed order dismissing Orr and the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, along with its chair and members, without prejudice.

         ¶ 10 Although Independent Maps was not originally included as a party, it was later granted leave to intervene. See 735 ILCS 5/2-408 (West 2014). No question is raised on the sufficiency of the case law permitting intervention by an entity in support of its own ballot initiative proposal (see Chicago Bar Ass'n v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 161 Ill.2d 502, 506 (1994) (per curiam) (hereinafter CBA II); Chicago Bar Ass'n v. State Board of Elections, 137 Ill.2d 394, 396 (1990) (hereinafter CBA I); Coalition for Political Honesty v. State Board of Elections, 65 Ill.2d 453, 456 (1976) (per curiam) (hereinafter Coalition I)).

         ¶ 11 The complaint at issue here had 11 counts. The first six were directed against all defendants and sought a declaratory judgment that the amendment to article IV, section 3 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, § 3), is unconstitutional because it exceeds the scope of ballot initiatives permitted under article XIV, section 3 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3). Relying on another constitutional provision, count VII also seeks a declaratory judgment. Counts VIII through XI seek a permanent injunction based on the allegations in the prior counts.

         ¶ 12 Article XIV, section 3, limits the scope of permissible ballot initiatives "to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV [Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, § 3], " the legislative article. Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3. Count V of the plaintiffs' complaint alleged that the latter provision limited the ballot initiative process to proposing changes in the structure and procedure of the legislature. Because Independent Maps' proposal addresses the redistricting process rather than the organization of the General Assembly or "the process by which it adopts a law, " the plaintiffs contended it impermissibly falls outside article XIV, section 3.

         ¶ 13 Alternatively, counts I through IV and VI alleged that, even if redistricting constitutes a "structural and procedural subject[ ] contained in Article IV, " the proposed ballot initiative is invalid because it is not "limited" to those subjects, violating article XIV, section 3 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3). According to count I, the initiative exceeds those limitations by adding to the existing duties of the Auditor General enumerated in article VIII of the constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VIII). Count II alleged the initiative unconstitutionally modifies our courts' jurisdiction as currently stated in the judicial article (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI). Count III asserted the proposal would improperly impose new duties on both the Chief Justice of this court and the most senior Justice who is not affiliated with the same political party as the Chief Justice. Count IV contended the proposed initiative is invalid because it would impose a new requirement that the members of this court be affiliated with a political party. According to count VI, Independent Maps' proposal exceeds the limits mandated in article XIV, section 3, by eliminating the Attorney General's authority to commence actions pertaining to legislative redistricting.

         ¶ 14 Similar to counts I through VI, count VII sought a declaratory judgment against all defendants. Count VII did not, however, allege a violation of article XIV, section 3. Rather, it relied on an alleged violation of article III, section 3, of our constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. III, § 3). Article III, section 3, provides that "[a]ll elections shall be free and equal." Ill. Const. 1970, art. III, § 3. The plaintiffs asserted that Independent Maps' ballot initiative does not comply with that requirement because it improperly includes separate and unrelated questions into one ballot proposition.

         ¶ 15 Counts VIII through XI present no new substantive claims for challenging the validity of this proposed ballot initiative. Instead, they merely incorporated by reference the complaint's previous allegations and requested a permanent injunction to preclude public funds from being disbursed to evaluate the sufficiency of the petition or to place the measure on the ballot at the November 8, 2016, general election. Count VIII was directed at the State Board of Elections, its officers and members, while Count IX was irected at the Board of Election Commissioners for the City of Chicago and its officers and members, as well as the County Clerk of Cook County. These defendants have already been dismissed from the case. Accordingly, count IX was stricken and is not before this court. Count X was directed at the Comptroller and State Treasurer, and count XI sought an injunction against the Secretary of State.

         ¶ 16 On May 20, 2016, the plaintiffs were given leave to file their complaint, and Independent Maps filed its answer. The remaining defendants filed a separate, joint answer. The plaintiffs moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to section 2-615(e) of the Code of Civil Procedure (734 ILCS 5/2-615(e) (West 2014)), asking that the court grant both declaratory and injunctive relief. Independent Maps filed a cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, seeking dismissal of the plaintiffs' complaint with prejudice.

         ¶ 17 The circuit court held a hearing on both motions before granting the plaintiffs' motion as to counts I through VII, concluding that the proposed ballot initiative did not comply with the requirements in our constitution. The court then denied Independent Maps' motion on those counts. The court entered no judgment on counts VIII, X, and XI, seeking injunctive relief. To prevent the absence of a judgment on those three counts from delaying appellate review, the court expressly found that there was no just reason for delaying enforcement or appeal of its judgment pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 304(a). Ill. S.Ct. R. 304(a) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016).

         ¶ 18 Independent Maps immediately filed a notice of appeal to the appellate court and asked that the case be expedited. See Ill. S.Ct. R. 311(b) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016). It then filed a motion to transfer the case directly to this court pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 302(b) (eff. Oct. 4, 2011). Rule 302(b) permits those transfers when the public interest requires prompt adjudication of the matter by the supreme court. We allowed that motion on July 22, 2016, ordering the appeal to be taken directly to us and establishing an expedited briefing schedule for the parties. We also permitted a group consisting of the League of Women Voters and more than two dozen other business, civic, and public interest groups to file an amicus curiae brief in support of Independent Maps.[4] Following receipt of the parties' briefs, the matter has been submitted to the court without oral argument.

         ¶ 19 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 20 In its appeal, Independent Maps argues that the circuit court erred in granting judgment on the pleadings in favor of the plaintiffs pursuant to section 2-615(e) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615(e) (West 2014)) and that, instead, the court should have allowed its cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings and dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint with prejudice.

         ¶ 21 The standards guiding our review of this appeal are well established. Judgment on the pleadings is proper only where no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Pekin Insurance Co. v. Wilson, 237 Ill.2d 446, 454 (2010). In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court may consider only those facts appearing on the face of the pleadings, matters subject to judicial notice, and any judicial admissions in the record. All well-pleaded facts and reasonable inferences based on those facts are taken as true. Gillen v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 215 Ill.2d 381, 385 (2005); M.A.K. v. Rush-Presbyterian-St.-Luke's Medical Center, 198 Ill.2d 249, 255 (2001). We review the grant of judgment on the pleadings de novo. Pekin Insurance, 237 Ill.2d at 454. De novo review is also appropriate here because the resolution of this case turns on the interpretation and application of the Illinois Constitution, creating a question of law. Hawthorne v. Village of Olympia Fields, 204 Ill.2d 243, 254-55 (2003).

         ¶ 22 In challenging the ballot initiative, the plaintiffs advanced two basic lines of constitutional argument: (1) the ballot initiative exceeds the scope of permissible amendments pursuant to article XIV, section 3 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3), because it is not "limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV, " the constitution's legislative article (counts I through VI of the plaintiffs' complaint); and (2) it violates article III, section 3, of the constitution, stating that "[a]ll elections shall be free and equal" (Ill. Const. 1970, art. III, § 3), because it impermissibly combines separate and unrelated questions into a single ballot proposition (count VII of the plaintiffs' complaint). Within the plaintiffs' argument about article XIV, section 3, they address several proposed changes to the redistricting process. As we noted in Coalition for Political Honesty v. State Board of Elections, 83 Ill.2d 236, 247 (1980) (per curiam) (hereinafter Coalition II) (citing 4 Record of Proceedings, Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention 2710 (hereinafter Proceedings)), the limitation established in article XIV, section 3, "is apparently unique to Illinois, " severely undermining the guidance that may be obtained from the case law of our sister states addressing limitations on ballot initiatives. We note, however, that other jurisdictions have upheld the propriety of enjoining citizen initiatives proposing amendments when the applicable constitutional requirements are not met. Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 461-62. When addressing constitutional amendments,

" 'the will of the people to this end can only be expressed in the legitimate modes by which such a body politic can act, and which must either be prescribed by the constitution whose revision or amendment is sought, or by an act of the legislative department of the State, which alone would be authorized to speak for the people upon this subject ***.' 1 Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, 84-85 (8th ed. 1927). (Emphases added.)" Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 460-61.

         ¶ 23 In our constitution, the framers chose to limit the scope of ballot initiatives in article XIV, section 3. That section states, in relevant part: "Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV, " our legislative article. Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3. We have already addressed this language in four cases: CBA I, 137 Ill.2d at 396; CBA II, 161 Ill.2d at 506; Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 457, and Coalition II, 83 Ill.2d at 247. Thus,

"[t]he controlling legal principles are settled. The prior constitutions of this State did not provide for amendment through the direct initiative process. ([CBA I], 137 Ill.2d at 398.) The Framers of the 1970 Illinois Constitution intended article XIV, section 3, to be a very limited form of constitutional initiative. The Framers considered that a general initiative provision was unnecessary due to the liberalized amendment procedures of the new constitution. ([CBA I], 137 Ill.2d at 401.) ***.
Based on the Framers' concerns, article XIV, section 3, provides only for amendment of the legislative article, article IV. Further, not every aspect of the legislative article is subject to amendment through the initiative process. Rather, " ' "Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV." ' (Emphasis added.) [CBA I], 137 Ill.2d at 398, quoting Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3." CBA II, 161 Ill.2d at 508-09.

         ¶ 24 The Proposed Role of the Auditor General

         ¶ 25 Because we find this issue dispositive, we first examine count I of the plaintiffs' complaint. That count inserts the Auditor General into the redistricting process for the first time.

         ¶ 26 In its appeal before this court, Independent Maps presents three main arguments: (1) assigning the Auditor General duties related to redistricting does not "change" his constitutional duties established in article VIII, section 3, because the new duties relate to "redistricting" under article IV; (2) the new duties do not constitute the type of "substantive change" to policy matters that concerned the delegates at the 1970 Constitutional Convention; and (3) redistricting reforms would be hobbled if "non-legislative actors" could not be assigned new duties. Before we address these arguments, we must review the current constitutional provisions relating to our Auditor General and the additional duties interposed by the proposed initiative.

         ¶ 27 Our constitution mandates that the Auditor General (1) "shall conduct the audit of public funds of the State, " (2) "shall make additional reports and investigations as directed by the General Assembly, " and (3) "shall report his findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and to the Governor." Ill. Const. 1970, art. VIII, § 3(b). In addition to the duties already imposed on the Auditor General by our constitution, the proposed ballot initiative imposes several other duties. Indeed, the proposed ballot initiative greatly expands the duties of that office. While the Auditor General plays no part in the current redistricting process, under the proposed ballot initiative, that office would be responsible for multiple tasks critical to the success of the new redistricting plan. Under the proposed amendment,

"[f]or the purpose of conducting the Commissioner selection process, an Applicant Review Panel comprising three Reviewers shall be chosen in the following manner. Beginning not later than January 1 and ending not later than March 1 of the year in which the Federal decennial census occurs, the Auditor General shall request and accept applications to serve as a Reviewer. The Auditor General shall review all applications and select a pool of 30 potential Reviewers. The Auditor General should select applicants for the pool of potential Reviewers who would operate in an ethical and non-partisan manner by considering whether each applicant is a resident and registered voter of the State and has been for the four years preceding his or her application, has demonstrated understanding of and adherence to standards of ethical conduct and has been unaffiliated with any political party for the three years preceding appointment. By March 31 of the year in which the Federal decennial census occurs, the Auditor General shall publicly select by random draw the Panel of three Reviewers from the pool of potential Reviewers."

         After the Applicant Review Panel is constituted, the auditor must undertake another task, that of "request[ing] and accept[ing] applications to serve as a Commissioner on the Independent Redistricting Commission."[5]

         ¶ 28 Objecting to these changes, count I of the plaintiffs' complaint alleged that imposing duties on the Auditor General violates article XIV, section 3, of our constitution, limiting the scope of ballot initiatives "to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV." The plaintiffs assert that the additional duties appear to require the Auditor General to conduct extensive screening steps and applicant interviews to ensure compliance with the criteria established in the initiative for members of the Applicant Review Panel. In turn, Independent Maps counters that the Auditor General "already has a substantial staff devoted to a wide variety of different tasks and therefore should be capable of undertaking the task of screening applicants for the Applicant Review Panel."

         ¶ 29 While it is unclear from the record exactly how great a burden the additional duties imposed by the proposed initiative would create, two points appear certain. First, winnowing the number of applicants statewide down to a pool of 30 reviewers is likely to be a time-consuming and resource-intensive task. Indeed, the mandate that the Auditor General evaluate the "ethical conduct" and partisan leanings of "each applicant" who applies from across the state is likely to require considerable effort, time, and expense. Conversely, the time and resources expended on that process will necessarily be unavailable to perform the duties already specifically assigned to the Auditor General in article VIII, section 3. That alteration in the duties of the Auditor General, in itself, has a material effect on another section of our constitution, in violation of article XIV, section 3.

         ¶ 30 Second, and more importantly, the parties do not explain how the Auditor General's hypothetical ability to perform the newly assigned redistricting tasks affects the constitutionality of the proposal. Indeed, this argument conflicts with Independent Maps' own, quite accurate, description of the proper division of labor in the review process. As explained in its reply brief, "whether or not a provision is a good idea is beside the point for purposes of the constitutional analysis. It is for the voters to decide whether a proposed constitutional amendment is wise or workable; the courts' task is simply to decide whether it is limited to a structural and procedural subject in Article IV." (Emphasis added.) We agree and reject Independent Maps' claim that the new duties assigned to the Auditor General under its plan are constitutional because they are not unduly burdensome.

         ¶ 31 Independent Maps also argues that its proposed amendment does not, in fact, "change" the constitutional duties of the Auditor General and that its newly imposed duties do not raise the type of concerns raised during the Sixth Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1970. In discussing the latter point, it maintains that the ballot initiative comports with constitutional standards because it is "not being used as a subterfuge to undermine the duties the Constitution assigns to the Auditor General in Article VIII, " distinguishing it from CBA I. Independent Maps adds that "the key point for purposes of Article XIV, § 3 is that the Redistricting Initiative is aimed solely at reforming the redistricting process and is not designed to affect the auditing function established by Article VIII, § 3." (Emphasis in original.)

         ¶ 32 What these arguments fail to recognize, however, is twofold. First, nothing in our current constitution, its development, or this court's case law requires a proposed ballot initiative to be designed intentionally to undercut or otherwise even affect another constitutional provision to be found invalid under article XIV, section 3. The propriety of Independent Maps' unexpressed underlying intent is simply not a factor in the test established in the plain language of that article.

         ¶ 33 Certainly, during the debates at the 1970 Constitutional Convention, the possibility that a ballot initiative could provide a "backdoor" means of altering other constitutional provisions or even the substantive law was discussed. However, the intentional abuse of the ballot initiatives was not the sole incentive for enacting the limitations in article XIV, section 3, nor was it a factor incorporated into the standard set out in article XIV, section 3. The only relevant restriction in that section was that the ballot proposition be "limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV, " the constitution's legislative article. Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3.

         ¶ 34 Moreover, the framers of our constitution intended this court alone "to determine whether constitutional requirements for a proposed amendment were satisfied." Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 462. That role does not require us to read between the lines of every proposal in an attempt to discern the propriety of the proponent's underlying intentions; our role is solely to determine whether the proposal comports with the strict limitations set out in article XIV, section 3.

         ¶ 35 Second, at its core, the question in this case requires us to construe the relevant constitutional provisions, a purely legal question. As this court recently explained in Walker v. McGuire, we apply the same general principles to construe both statutory and constitutional provisions. When construing a constitutional provision, our primary purpose is to effectuate " 'the common understanding of the persons who adopted it-the citizens of this state'." Walker v. McGuire, 2015 IL 117138, ¶ 16 (citing Kanerva v. Weems, 2014 IL 115811, ¶ 36). If the language of the provision is unambiguous, we must give it effect without resorting to aids of statutory construction. Kanerva, 2014 IL 115811, ¶ 36. Only if the provision is ambiguous will we "consult the drafting history of the provision, including the debates of the delegates to the constitutional convention." Walker, 2015 IL 117138, ¶ 16 (citing Glisson v. City of Marion, 188 Ill.2d 211, 225 (1999), and Committee for Educational Rights v. Edgar, 174 Ill.2d 1, 13 (1996)). In addition, "[o]ne contending that language should not be given its natural meaning understandably has the burden of showing why it should not." Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 464.

         ¶ 36 The plain language of article XIV, section 3, unambiguously states that constitutional amendments created by ballot initiative "shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV." Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3. "It is clear from the debates of the Constitutional Convention of 1970 that only a very limited form of constitutional initiative was acceptable." CBA I, 137 Ill.2d at 401; see also CBA II, 161 Ill.2d at 508-09 (restating the same conclusion). In fact, the 1970 convention delegates expressly rejected an alternative provision granting citizens the authority to seek a ballot initiative affecting a broader range of subject matter. Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 467. Moreover, not only was the scope of permissible ballot initiatives in article XIV, section 3, limited to the amendment of the legislative article, it was intentionally restricted to a subset of topics relating to that article, namely, " 'structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.' " (Emphasis in original.) (Internal quotation marks omitted.) CBA II, 161 Ill.2d at 509 (quoting CBA I, 137 Ill.2d at 398).

         ¶ 37 In Coalition I and Coalition II, we quoted from an explanation provided by the spokesman for the majority on the Constitutional Convention Committee on the legislature, Louis Perona, addressing the intentionally limited nature of amendments that could be enacted by ballot initiative. Delegate Perona emphasized the framers' rationale for limiting the reach of ballot initiatives, "As I indicated preliminarily in my remarks, I think the limitation on this initiative eliminates the abuse which has been made of the initiative in some states. The attempt has been made here to prevent it being applied to ordinary legislation or to changes which do not attack or do not concern the actual structure or makeup of the legislature itself. (4 Proceedings 2911.)" (Emphasis added.) Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 470.

         ¶ 38 We further stated in Coalition I,

"Any offered amendment under the initiative obviously must comply with the procedure and the limitations on amendment set out in [article XIV, ] section 3 before it can be submitted to the electorate. As this court has observed: 'The constitution is the supreme law, and every citizen is bound to obey it and every court is bound to enforce its provisions. It is a most extraordinary doctrine that the court has a discretion to enforce or not enforce a provision of the constitution according to its judgment as to its wisdom or whether the public good will be subserved by disregarding it.' People ex rel. Miller v. Hotz, 327 Ill. 433, 437." Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 460.

         Thus, this court is obliged to respect the imitations placed on the scope of ballot initiatives by article XIV, section 3, as approved by the citizens of this state. Those limitations alone must guide our review of Independent Maps' arguments.

         ¶ 39 Returning to the task of construing article XIV's limitation on the permissible subject matter of the ballot initiative process, our only concern in this case must be the proposed initiative's compliance with the applicable standard expressed in article XIV, section 3, of our constitution: whether the proposal is "limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV." Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3.

         ¶ 40 In CBA I, this court was similarly asked to address a ballot initiative's effects on another constitutional provision. There, the proposed amendment required each legislative house to create a "revenue committee" possessing a designated number of members. More critically, any bill that increased the state's revenue required a three-fifths vote in each house before becoming law. In analyzing whether that proposal violated article XIV, section 3, we focused not on whether it encompassed both structural and procedural components but on whether it was "limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV." (Emphases in original.) (Internal quotation marks omitted.) CBA I, 137 Ill.2d at 403.

         ¶ 41 "[W]e [found] that the proposed Amendment [was] not limited to the structural and procedural subjects of article IV. Wrapped up in this structural and procedural package is a substantive issue not found in article IV-the subject of increasing State revenue or increasing taxes." (Emphasis in original.) CBA I, 137 Ill.2d at 404. We further explained that

"if this court finds that the proposed Amendment falls within the limitations of section 3 of article XIV then almost any substantive issue can be cast in the form of an amendment to the structure and procedure of the legislative article by using the same scenario." CBA I, 137 Ill.2d at 405.

         ¶ 42 Here, the sole provision in our constitution currently addressing the "subject" of the Auditor General's job duties is indisputably article VIII, section 3 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VIII, § 3). As presently constituted, article IV does not mention the "subject" of the Auditor General's office or its duties, even in passing. Moreover, the additional duties the ballot initiative imposes on the Auditor General creates changes that neither " 'attack [n]or *** concern the actual structure or makeup of the legislature itself.' " Coalition I, 65 Ill.2d at 470 (quoting 4 Proceedings 2911 (statements of Delegate Perona)). Therefore, the duties of the Auditor General have never been and are not now a "subject contained in Article IV" as currently constituted. Thus, that provision is not a proper "subject" of the legislative article, in violation of the limitation in article XIV, section 3.

         ¶ 43 Finally, Independent Maps makes the policy argument that upholding the circuit court's finding that the plaintiffs were entitled to judgment on the pleadings will "make it largely impossible to make meaningful reforms in the redistricting process." We respectfully disagree. The Auditor General is not the only potential nonlegislative actor capable of filling the duties outlined in its proposal. Certainly Illinois has other offices or individuals that are unencumbered by the limitations expressed in Article XIV. Indeed, the scheme proffered in the instant proposal is not the only model of redistricting reform that could be imagined. The constitutional right of the citizens of this state to alter the legislative article by ballot initiative ...


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