CHICAGO (AP) – Signature-driven measures calling for term limits for Illinois legislators and a new political redistricting process may not appear on the November ballot, a Cook County judge ruled Friday in a decision that could be a setback for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva said in a written ruling the measures didn’t meet constitutional requirements to make the ballot.
Rauner, who’s trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in what’s expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive governor’s races nationwide, has led the term limits effort. In addition to railing against “career politicians,” his campaign sees the ballot measure as a way to inspire supporters to go to the polls this fall.
Supporters of both measures have said politics is playing a role ahead of a crucial election. Mark Campbell, a spokesman for the term limits group, said Friday they would appeal next week. He said they’d move to take it directly to the Illinois Supreme Court.
“We’re not at all surprised,” Campbell told reporters minutes after the ruling was issued. “The entrenched forces of the status quo and politics as usual and career politicians is well in place here in Illinois and Cook County.”
Lawyers who represent top Democratic lawmakers filed a lawsuit challenging the measures. They argued that the initiatives didn’t meet constitutional requirements, would changes rules for seeking office, and would affect the governor’s powers.
In her 11-page ruling, Mikva wrote that all the provisions of the term limits initiative aren’t related. In addition to limiting legislators to eight years in office, the measure calls for changing the size of the Illinois House and Senate and makes it harder to override a governor’s veto.
She also writes that provisions of the mapmaking initiative are outside of constitutional requirements, among them that members of the independent commission won’t be allowed to serve as a lawmaker or other leadership positions for a decade after serving on the commission.
Attorneys for Rauner’s group, the Committee for Legislative Reform and Term Limits, had argued that the measure met the requirements. As did the other group, Yes for Independent Maps, which wants an independent commission to take over how the state draws its political boundaries, instead of leaving it to lawmakers.
However, the group advocating redistricting faced other hurdles, such as surviving the signature verification process with the Illinois State Board of Elections. An initial sampling showed a high rate of invalid signatures.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of community leaders representing business interests, among other things. It was argued by Michael Kasper, a well-known Chicago elections attorney who represents Democratic politicians.
Kasper has declined to discuss the case and could not immediately be reached for comment Friday, but Democratic leaders have dismissed the allegations that the lawsuit was politically motivated.
The November ballot could still be one of the heftiest in Illinois history. Even without the two signature-driven measures, five others pertaining to voters could appear on the ballots. Most have been spearheaded by Democrats, including non-binding questions on raising the minimum wage, and others on birth control and a millionaire’s tax.
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