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Three-judge federal appellate panel upholds Democrats’ legislative remap plan

Thursday, Dec 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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* Click here for the full opinion

Plaintiffs in these three consolidated cases, McConchie, Contreras, and East St. Louis NAACP, challenge Illinois’ legislative redistricting map1 and ask this Court to order alterations that would create additional districts featuring majorities of either Latino or Black voters. All Plaintiffs bring statutory claims, arguing that the redistricting map impermissibly dilutes minority votes in violation of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, et seq. Contreras and East St. Louis NAACP Plaintiffs also present constitutional claims, contending that several legislative districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

On § 2 Voting Rights Act claims, the Supreme Court has admonished that “[f]ailure to maximize cannot be the measure of § 2” because “reading § 2 to define dilution as any failure to maximize tends to obscure the very object of the statute and to run counter to its textually stated purpose.” Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1016–17 (1994). Nearly three decades later, those principles animate this Court’s analysis of these three challenges to Illinois’ legislative redistricting map. Many of Plaintiffs’ proposed districts barely surpass the 50% mark. For all but one of the districts in SB 927, Latino voters maintain a census voting age population of 42.7% or higher, which Legislative Defendants insist allow for additional opportunities to form coalitions with voters of other races to elect their candidate of choice, enhancing the overall political power of Latinos in Illinois.

In light of these figures, these three cases are not about “the chance for some electoral success in place of none.” Johnson, 512 U.S. at 1012–13. Rather, for many of the challenged districts, these cases are about “the chance for more success in place of some.” Id. at 1013. This disagreement also reflects competing views about how to guarantee Latino and Black voters, in their respective districts, equal opportunity to elect their candidate of choice when minority voters could form different permutations of majority-minority, coalition, and opportunity districts.

Although there is debate about how to achieve the guarantees of the Voting Rights Act, one thing is clear: A federal court is not the arbiter of that dispute unless Plaintiffs carry their burden to prove that an elected legislature’s approach violates the law. […]

As to the constitutional claims, Contreras Plaintiffs allege that House District (“HD” or “House District”) 21 and Senate District (“SD” or “Senate District”) 11 constitute racial gerrymanders, and East St. Louis NAACP Plaintiffs allege the same for HD 114. But neither set of Plaintiffs has proved that race predominated in the configuration of any of the challenged districts. Indeed, the record could not be more clear that partisan politics—a legally acceptable criterion—controlled that decision. The second part of this opinion lays out our evaluation of those constitutional claims.

For the reasons that follow, we uphold the General Assembly’s redistricting map under SB 927 and reject in full all three Plaintiffs’ remedial proposals, denying Plaintiffs any further injunctive or declaratory relief.

…Adding… Press release…

House Speaker and Senate President Statement on Federal Court Decision to Uphold Fair Map

“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,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon.

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.”

* And…

Leader Hernandez’s Statement Regarding Federal Court Decision on Legislative Map

“From the beginning of this redistricting process, we have sought to reflect the diversity of this great state. Today’s ruling confirms that our map is constitutional, adheres to the Voting Rights Act and preserves Illinois’ reputation as a model for the nation when it comes to minority representation,” said Rep. Lisa Hernandez, Chair of the House Redistricting Committee. “I want to thank our bipartisan Redistricting Committee, community organizers, advocacy groups and the general public for their participation in this long but important process.”

…Adding… From the plaintiffs…

“This ruling is a disappointment, but that does not mean we will ever stop fighting for independent maps in Illinois,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “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.”

And

“We are disappointed at the three-judge court’s decision today,” MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said in a statement. “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.” […]

MALDEF staff attorney Ernest Herrera said the decision means Latino voters will continue to be underrepresented in Springfield.

“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,” Herrera said in a statement. “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.”

       

1 Comment
  1. - Hamlet on the Potomac - Monday, Jan 3, 22 @ 10:52 am:

    Amazing how 70-80% of the public can desire a fair redistricting process, but the entrenched powers refuse to allow it, because they know how critical it is to maintaining the status quo in Illinois.


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