Illinois Pioneers Election Manipulation at the State Legislative Level

Chicago has long been nationally famous for manipulating election results.  Its reputation for registering voters with a cemetery address, registering the homeless, and allowing people to vote more than once is legendary.  What is not so well known is how Illinois has, along with other blue states, established new methods of stealing votes at the level of the state legislature.

The plain fact is, when voters in Illinois elect state representatives and state senators, they vote for persons who are supposed to represent their interests.  Republican voters want to see the Republican platform enacted into state legislation, and Democratic voters want to see Democrat ideas enacted into state legislation.  That's the basis of the representative form of government.

But since January of 2017, the Illinois House of Representatives, led by Speaker Michael Madigan, has developed new techniques to steal the voice of voters and control what becomes a law and what doesn't.  In other words, Illinois House speaker Madigan now bypasses election results completely through new methods of manipulating the writing and passing of bills in the Illinois House.  In short, the House speaker of Illinois's state government has made the Illinois House a one-man operation.

This had been done through the establishment of rules that, remarkably, are allowed to stand.  No one has challenged them in federal court as voting rights violations.  The details of the "Madigan Rules," as they are called in Illinois, have been carefully described by the Illinois Policy Institute, the premier watchdog group in Illinois.

Given the Supreme Court's rulings on voting rights, and the representative form of government as established in the U.S. Constitution, that these rules are the actual rules that control representative state government in Illinois is astonishing.

Here's a brief discussion of the major House rules, as contained in House Resolution 46, passed in January 2017.  To illustrate the importance of these rules, remember that when Jesse Ventura became governor of Minnesota, and Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor of California, they were frustrated in that their policy ideas had to go through legislative committees, and these committees were under the control of those already in power. 

Illinois House rules go one step farther and place the legislative control of the committees themselves in the hands of the House speaker through Rule 4.  For example, the complete text of Rule 4(c)(13) clearly states that the speaker has the power "[t]o determine the number of majority [Democrat] caucus members and minority [Republican] caucus members to be appointed to all committees, except as otherwise provided by these Rules."  The "otherwise provided" clause is meaningless; there are no other relevant rules.  So the numbers of Democrats and Republicans on all committees are determined not by whether or not either party has a majority of elected members in the Illinois House of Representatives.  This rule gives the speaker the power to override the results of elections and place the specific representatives the speaker wants into the committees that write all the House bills.  This is clearly unconstitutional in that "the consent of the governed," as the Declaration of Independence outlines, is not the source of all governmental power in Illinois; rather, the will of only one person, the speaker, is. 

Another rule expands on this.  Not only does the speaker have the power in Illinois to decide what political party has the majority in every committee, but Rule 4(c)(14) gives the speaker sole power "[t]o appoint all Chairpersons, Co-Chairpersons, and Vice-chairpersons of Committees (from either the majority or minority caucus), and to appoint all majority caucus members of committees" (parentheses original).

And to add another layer of control over legislation, another rule states that the speaker can replace anyone on any committee at any time.

The power the voters are supposed to have in Illinois state government to influence the laws passed by the Illinois House, and to be later signed by the governor, has been completely usurped by these three one-sentence rules.  Currently the House speaker is Michael Madigan, who is a Democrat and has a majority in the Illinois House.  But as these rules indicate, it doesn't matter how many representatives the Republicans get in the Illinois House as long as the speaker stays in power and controls how many Democrats are on committees and who the committee chairs are.  Illinois is the only state in the U.S. that allows its House speaker to completely control the state Legislature through rules like these.

These rules were put into place by Democrat speaker Michael Madigan over the years.  He is now the longest serving House speaker in all 50 states.  When he took over as House speaker in 1983, within a few months, he and the Democrats in the House passed a resolution "to suspend all Rules of the House."  Since then, the Rules have been revised, each time sneaking in more and more power to the speaker. 

While legislative rules like Rule 4(13) have never been address by the Supreme Court, the Court has consistently ruled that the power to choose public policy at the state and federal levels belongs solely to the voters.  For example, in Reynolds v. Sims, a state apportionment case, the Supreme Court ruled: "The Equal Protection Clause requires substantially equal legislative representation for all citizens in a State regardless of where they reside."  The ability of the speaker in Illinois to pick and choose committee chairs and the number of committee members by party is obviously a violation of the rights of voters to have their voices heard in the Illinois House.  In Baker v. Carr, the Court wrote: "[T]he question is, may a State weight the vote of one county or one district more heavily than it weights the vote in another?"  It's easy to see that while Baker was an apportionment case, Rule 4(13), since it gives the power to pick and choose committee members to the speaker, violates the rights of voters by taking away the voters' choice on policy and hands it exclusively to the speaker.  It is not possible to cite any specific Supreme Court rulings since no one has yet filed a case on rules like these to the Court.

Since these practices are not the results of bribery and corruption, but are documented written rules and apply to any person who is speaker, they are facial violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  They interfere with elections and dilute and diminish the value of the vote as much as the cruder methods such as ballot box-stuffing and counting ballots incorrectly. 

Because these rules are written, they are vulnerable to federal litigation as violations of the rights of an individual person to have his voice heard in Illinois state government.  A federal complaint is being written right now, for the first time.  The Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether to hear such a case and decide if these rules, which negate the opportunity of voters to influence Illinois state legislation, are constitutional.

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