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SPRINGFIELD — When it comes to redrawing the political lines in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn has his own special pen called the amendatory veto.

By Andrew Thomason

For the first time since the state adopted its Constitution in 1970, one party controls all the branches of government needed to create a new legislative district map based on U.S. Census population figures.

One tool created in that Constitution was the amendatory — or corrective — veto. In an age without computers, it allowed governors to correct technical problems with legislation. Over time, however, governors have wielded their amendatory veto pen with more and more power.

Could Quinn use this power to make changes to any political map that the Democratically-controlled General Assembly sent him? According to several state constitutional experts, the answer is yes.

There was talk of this exact scenario during the 1970 Constitutional Convention, said Ann Lousin, a professor at the John Marshall Law School, who was involved in the convention.

“I remember there (was) informal discussions, no great big fuss, let me tell you, about the fact that since (redistricting) would be a bill as opposed to a joint resolution, that it would go to the governor and this would give the governor whatever his veto powers were,” Lousin said.

Dawn Clark Netsch was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and is a professor at Northwestern Law School. She said the Constitution doesn’t give Quinn the ability to simply swap the Legislature’s map with his own under the guise of an amendatory veto.

“We know by court decision that it is more than technical changes or correcting errors, but it is not rewriting a bill or totally changing the purpose,” Netsch said.

While Quinn could reject a map outright with a veto or tweak it with an amendatory veto, Lousin and others said that is extremely unlikely. Lousin even went as far as to call that move political suicide.

Kent Redfield, a professor of political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said that Quinn could use his signature on a new map as leverage for some of his legislative priorities. But, Redfield added, because the political lives of so many are tangled up in the redistricting process, any map that actually makes it out of the Legislature is fragile at best.

“It certainly does give the governor kind of the ultimate doomsday weapon, which is to scuttle a map that (Senate President John) Cullerton and (Speaker of the House Michael) Madigan put together,” Redfield said. “I think that’s a pretty dangerous game of chicken.”

It’s a dangerous game at least for Democrats because it would take the process out of their hands. Overturning a gubernatorial veto would require Republican votes, something unlikely to happen.

In 1991, then Republican Gov. Jim Edgar vetoed a redistricting map passed by the General Assembly. Like the two times before and the time after the redistricting commission was made up of equal number Republicans and Democrats, and they couldn’t come up with an agreement. That gridlock forced a lottery to see who would get the tie-breaking vote. In Edgar’s case, he and the Republicans got lucky and won.

Another reason Quinn is unlikely to use the threat of a veto as leverage is because of what has been accomplished in the past several months, Lousin said.

“Here is a guy who has made some bold decisions, whether you like them or not — civil unions, abolishing the death penalty, asking for an increase in the income tax and is talking about worker comp reform — if that’s all true, he cannot afford to alienate his own party, can he? And that’s what he’s going to do, he’s going to alienate people if he starts using an amendatory veto,” she said.

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3 Comments

  1. Easy to change all this.

    Until we start our own party, we will be the vassals of both major ones. It doesn't have to be demagogic like the Tea Party or the Left Wing either. It can be quite well-rounded with many points of view. The platform should be simple, and non-ideological. One that most can agree on. Like term limits, and one office holder per family, etc. Our platform would have our candidate maintain an ongoing blog and put most matters up to online polling. Ordinary people could run in our primary, and state their case on our parties' homepage. After an online poll, the winner goes up against the majors. No big dollars needed here, use bulk mail to postal customer a few times per election and the rest on line. Lots of details to work out, but totally doable.

    1. How Quinn should use his power

      The new districts [and Federal should also] be compact and contiguous.  No block by block gerrymandering to serve officials or special interests.  No partitioning so groups can control what is done—other than voting for and working within the district.  With movements between blocks let alone districts or even states, what you gerrymand today may soon not even represent what you thought—unless we keep doing the way we have and creating more ghettos [but call them ethnic communities].

  2. Non-ideological party!

    "The platform should be simple, and non-ideological. One that most can agree on. "

    A party that stands for nothing!  Sounds good to me…sign me up!

    But seriously, if we want a party that stands for nothing, we already have the Democrats, who never cease to cave in to the extremist demands of the Republicans.

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