Two lawsuits filed over Democrats’ gerrymandered legislative districts in Illinois

Minding the Illinois political maze for decades.

By John Ruberry

Since posting my Illinois gerrymandering entry here last week there is an update.

First some background: Despite multiple promises to veto a partisan remap of Illinois state legislative districts, Democratic governor JB Pritzker signed into law new hyper-partisan new state House and Senate districts, claiming that these new maps preserve diversity.

Not so fast, JB.

Late Thursday the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, on behalf of five Hispanic voters, filed suit in federal court claiming that the new maps are “malapportioned.” AP sums up the controversey beautifully. “But the challenge from MALDEF,” the wire service says, “expands the source of objections to the very groups whose voting rights Democrats say they are protecting.”

Earlier last week the Illinois Republican Party also filed a federal lawsuit that claims that the new maps violate the 14th Amendment to the US Contsitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Indeed it may. Illinois’ constitution states that new General Assembly district maps must be drawn by legislators by the end of June after each decennial census. If not, the process moves to an eight-person committee evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. If that panel can’t come to a decision then two names are placed in a hat, one Republican and one Democrat. Lovers of political theater will be thrilled to learn that the four times the remapping committee was formed, three times times no decision was reached and the tiebreaker clause was invoked. In 2000 a stovepipe hat said to have been worn by Abraham Lincoln was used for the tiebreaking ceremony.

The complete Census figures won’t be available until August. But it’s clear that the Democrats didn’t want the redistricting process to be left by chance, or worse, given to Republicans. So the Dems, rather than work with hard numbers, instead used population estimates from the American Community Survey.

This weekend on Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up, host Mike Flannery ventured into what-aboutism expressed by the left regarding gerrymandering in Republican states. During an interview with state Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield).  Flannery phrased their argument this way, “That the Democrats here stopped short of annihilating as many Republicans as they could in the General Assembly–do you buy that?” Butler responded that he does not and he explained to Flannery, “We have 14 members–Republican members of the House–that were drawn in districts together and we have zero Democrats that were drawn into districts together.” That’s an observation the Wall Street Journal made earlier this month. Because of Democratic gerrymandering after the 2010 census, there are currenly only 45 Republicans among the 118 members in the Illinois House. 

While of course there are no state or federal legal protections to protect GOP state legislators, as I mentioned earlier in this post and last week, Pritzker promised he would veto a partisan remap.

There is a better way. Twice in the 2010s enough signatures were collected to put an amendment to the Illinois Constitution on the general election ballot that would take redistricting out of the hands of legislators and placing a non-partisan committee in control. Twice a lawyer closely tied to Boss Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), the longtime Illinois House speaker who was forced out of power early this year, sued to block having Illinois voters decide the issue. In a party-line vote, the Illinois Supreme Court sided with the Democrats both times.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

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