The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


June 9, 2014

Illinois, where democracy goes to die? Let's hope not

With regard to a citizen initiative to restore honest, fair elections to Illinois, we knew that it would be rough going, that those in power threatened by any change to the status quo would pull out all the stops to prevent voters from ever having a say.

Reformers hope to take the map-making out from behind closed doors and away from the politicians, who repeatedly have proven themselves incapable of crafting legislative boundaries that don't pre-determine the winners, that have produced some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, that discourage competitive contests, that overtly favor incumbents, that unduly benefit their guys at the expense of the other guys. It's a bipartisan affliction. Illinois Democrats are the guilty party of the moment. The good-government types want voters to change that through constitutional amendment.

Alas, the Yes for Independent Maps campaign has run into its first major roadblock, with the State Board of Elections finding just 45 percent of its petition signatures — in a small sample of the some 507,000 submitted — to be valid for getting the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Almost 60 percent, or nearly 299,000 legitimate John Hancocks, are required.

The not-so-subtle implication here is that the fix is in, and that the mysterious hand of House Speaker Michael Madigan — who's also chairman of the state's Democratic Party — is manipulating matters in some way. We can't vouch for that, though it's fair to say Madigan is no fan of the effort. His allies — specifically his former legal counsel — have already filed a lawsuit to thwart both this and a legislator term limit ballot initiative championed by GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. All who call Illinois home can be forgiven their cynicism. The federal prison system may not actually reserve jail cells for former Illinois governors and other assorted elected officials, but who could blame Uncle Sam if he did? And so a lot of people affiliated with state government get tangled in that web of doubt and suspicion, sometimes fairly, sometimes not.

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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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