* Trouble in paradise…
Democrats hailed Illinois’ new Congressional map as a work of redistricting art earlier this year, but now the three black Democrats in the delegation are raising serious objections.
Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr., Bobby Rush and Danny Davis have concerns about whether the new map adheres to the Voting Rights Act. The trio is also hesitant to help Democrats defend the map in court against a GOP lawsuit.
“I have serious concerns that are likely to be aired in the legal process between both sides,” Jackson said Tuesday evening.
Earlier this month, the lawmaker penned a letter to the president venting his frustration with the Justice Department. Last week, he went ballistic in a Democratic delegation meeting, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
“He was, in his own way, boisterous and bombastic and perhaps inappropriate in that meeting,” one of the sources said. “It seemed like a strange time to discuss that. There were several meetings when the map was being discussed in the first place.”
At the meeting, Democrats discussed how to pay for as much as $500,000 in court fees to fight a GOP lawsuit challenging the new lines. The Illinois Democrats were asked to chip in $10,000 each from their campaign funds. But Davis said that he, Jackson and Rush refused to pay.
According to the last census, Chicago lost about 180,000 black people. The African-American population also dropped in suburban Cook and almost all the collars. Several people have contended that the census numbers were inaccurate and should’ve been challenged, but we didn’t hear much out of the state’s congressional delegation about that.
* The Congressman appears to be upset that the three African-American districts are all just barely over 50 percent black. But when the region loses that many black people, it’s pretty tough to draw three completely solid black districts. Jackson’s current district was based on the 2000 census total of 62.4 percent black. His new disrict is about 54 percent black.
Democrats probably could have done some more squibbling with the lines and put more black people into these three districts, but that would’ve meant seriously undercutting party strength in a couple of “competitive” districts.
Of course, if Jackson, Rush and Davis decide to actually challenge this map in court under Section 2, the Republicans will have a field day…
Section 2 of the Voting Right Act of 1965 prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate based on race, color or membership. It’s used frequently as an argument in redistricting lawsuits when one party does not believe the map accurately gives minority groups voting representation.
*** UPDATE 1 *** Congressman Jackson just sent me this statement. I’ve highlighted a couple of paragraphs that may be a surprise to Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who fought hard to limit Latino districts to just one. Either way, this is a big boost to the Republican challengers of the new map because the GOPs based much of their complaint on this very same argument about one Latino district…
Redrawn maps after the 2010 census in the 1st, 2nd and 7th CDs remain essentially unchanged under the Democratic Party’s and the Republican Party’s maps. The only issue is whether Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) was properly taken into account in the redistricting process.
To gain a Democratic majority and partisan advantage, some Democrats may be prepared to tamper with and possibly violate the VRA, rather than support strict enforcement of its provisions. Congressman Rush, Davis and I are not prepared to do that. There is another way. Instead of abandoning the fight against racism and discrimination, both Democrats and Republicans should fight for fairness - political and economic inclusion for all.
For some, partisan advantage may be more important than fighting against discrimination. But not for us. African Americans and Latinos have a memory of a history of discrimination that predates either party.
We want to make it very clear that the 1st, 7th and 2nd CDs - that are presently represented by Bobby Rush, Danny Davis and me respectively - remain essentially unchanged under either proposed map. So our arguments are not driven by self-interest. The potential problem is in the 20-year-old court ordered 4th CD represented by Luis Gutierrez.
In 1990 the Democratic legislature drew a map that did not include a Latino district. In 1991 the Republican Party filed a lawsuit that did include a Latino district and their map prevailed in court, which elected the first Latino congressman in the history of Illinois, Luis Gutierrez, who has represented the district with great distinction.
In 2011, with Illinois losing a congressional seat under reapportionment and the Latino population being the only minority population in the state to increase, the Democratic-controlled legislature has drawn a map that may deny Latinos a second CD in Congress. According to Thornburg v. Gingles, historic discrimination is enough to establish a violation. Therefore we hope Democrats, for the 2nd time, have not denied Latinos their fair share of representation. We hope that the Court does not rule that the Democrats intentionally discriminated against Latinos for a second time and we are concerned that we could a party to that argument.
With national attention on issues like immigration and high unemployment, we want to make sure that neither side’s arguments over the redrawn maps are depriving Latinos of legitimate and deserved representation in Congress.
Again, all of the African American CDs - under either map - does not essentially change. So this is not an issue driven by our self-interest but by our interest in strict enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that is under attack in multiple jurisdictions around the country.
We believe that President Barack Obama and his Justice Department are equally committed to seeing that Section 2 and Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are strictly enforced.
*** UPDATE 2 *** There’s not much to it, of course, but here’s the response from House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman…
“The new Illinois reapportionment law meets all the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act and the related requirements.”