Panel of 3 Fed Judges Upholds Democrats’ Remap of IL

By Benjamin Cox on December 30, 2021 at 5:55pm

Three combined lawsuits about the state’s new remap lost in federal court today.

A panel of 3 federal judges ruled today that the suits brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Illinois GOP, and the East St. Louis chapter of the NAACP did not provide sufficient enough evidence of impropriety with the maps, and ruled against the groups’ remedial map proposals they submitted last month. The panel upheld the General Assembly’s redistricting plan as it currently stands and denied the three groups any further injunctive or declaratory relief. You can read the court’s full opinion at this link.

The three groups alleged the new maps apportionment was maligned and used bad data to not ensure equal representation of all of the state’s population, especially to disenfranchise Latino voters in Chicago’s legislative districts and Black voters in the Metro East. The ILGOP claimed the maps used inconsistent data to gerrymander districts heavily in Democrats’ favor. The lawsuits also alleged the maps adopted in September violated the“one person, one vote” provisions spelled out in Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Illinois Democrats sought to have all of the lawsuits dismissed in filings in July. Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon praised the court’s decision in a joint press release: “From the beginning we have been guided by the goal of creating a fair map that recognizes the true diversity of the people of this great state. We appreciate that the court recognized and affirmed our efforts to ensure all communities across Illinois receive equal representation. We would like to thank Chairs Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez and Sen. Omar Aquino, Vice Chairs Rep. Curtis Tarver and Sen. Elgie Sims and the bipartisan Redistricting Committees for their work, as well as members of the public who offered testimony and insight throughout this redistricting process.”

Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods called the ruling a disappointment: “This ruling is a disappointment, but that does not mean we will ever stop fighting for independent maps in Illinois. While we didn’t get the outcome we believe the people of Illinois deserve, the fact remains that Gov. Pritzker and his cronies broke their promises and failed Illinois families. It didn’t have to be this way. Gov. Pritzker could have kept his promise to support independent redistricting, but instead signed a map that was ruled unconstitutional and another that was opposed by voting rights groups throughout Illinois. Gov. Pritzker and his Democratic allies have made their allegiance clear: they are more committed to protecting the same political insiders who have been wrecking our state for decades than defending voting rights in Illinois.”

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz also called the ruling a disappointment in a joint press release today: “In particular, we believe that the court reached conclusions about the extent of crossover voting by non-Latinos to support Latino-supported candidates that are not accurate under the law. Nonetheless, the legislatively-drawn districts will be in effect as a result of today’s decision, and MALDEF will be carefully monitoring electoral outcomes in the districts we have challenged. It is incumbent upon the legislative leaders and governor who enacted these maps to ensure that, in fact, their dismantling of Latino-majority districts and failure to create new Latino-majority districts do not result in any diminution in the political and policy influence to which the growing Illinois Latino community is entitled.  This includes ensuring that all government appointments, political leadership, and policy development properly respect Latino community interests and significance. Despite today’s decision, the compressed and difficult federal litigation MALDEF pursued has ensured that the original and faulty, malapportioned lines were never used, and has succeeded in sending a critical message about the appropriate future ongoing recognition of the Latino community’s increased and central prominence in Illinois’ future.”

MALDEF staff attorney Ernest Herrera also went further in the joint release saying Latinos will now be under-represented in the Illinois General Assembly: “The Court unfortunately agreed with Illinois’s legislative leaders that their map was just good enough for Latino voters for technical reasons, despite the facts that Latinos remain underrepresented in the General Assembly and continue to be left behind in education, housing access, healthcare, and income. Rather than provide Latinos equal opportunity to choose candidates who best represents their interests, today’s decision signals to the Latinos of Illinois that they remain significantly dependent on the purported munificence of the current majority political party. Despite this, Latinos in Illinois remain undeterred in building and struggling for true political power for their communities, and MALDEF continues to support them in that struggle.”

The NAACP has not provided comment on the decision at this time.

The loss brings to a close a 9-month fight over the state’s decennial remap process.