Legislative assembly

The Court leaves aside, for the moment, an amended legislative overhaul finalized in September

Gov. JB Pritzker and the Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly suffered a legal setback Tuesday when a federal court rejected a first new map of the state’s legislative district passed in May that favored Democrats.

A three-judge panel from Chicago-based North District Illinois District Courts said the card approved in the spring without a Republican vote violated the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Following: Leaders of the General Assembly to convene an extraordinary session for possible changes to the legislative map

The court ordered those challenging the map – Republican leaders in the General Assembly and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund – to submit proposed changes in November.

Democrats will be allowed to respond to the proposals before the court rules on the legality of an amended card approved by lawmakers in August and signed by Pritzker, a Democrat, in September.

The next court hearing is scheduled for November 5. The court said the approved card cannot be used for elections in 2022 and beyond until the dispute is resolved.

House Republican leaders Jim Durkin and Senate Dan McConchie issued a joint statement which read: “Today’s decision is a victory for Illinois citizens, advocacy groups and communities of interest. .

“During this process, the Republican caucuses have consistently demanded transparency and fairness in the mapping, which was rejected by Democrats and Governor Pritzker. The court ruling validates all of the concerns that were raised during the unconstitutional attempt by Democrats to gerrymander Illinois. “

There was no immediate response to the decision of Pritzker, a Democrat who enacted the card, or of House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside.

Federal prosecution: New state legislative map undermines black voters in East St. Louis

Senate Speaker Don Harmon D-Oak Park issued a statement that the updated boundary map signed in September is still valid.

“I am delighted that the tribunal has recognized that the General Assembly, under unique and unprecedented circumstances, did what we could do in May to fulfill our constitutional obligations, and did what we should do in September to ensure that our cards are constitutional, ”Harmon said. .

But Republicans say they’re convinced the Federal Court, after Tuesday’s ruling, will eventually order changes to September’s map.

The decision came a day before House and Senate committees held hearings in Springfield on proposed new district boundaries for Illinois’ 17 United States House districts. Democrats drew a new congressional district boundary map based on data from the 2020 census.

The Chamber hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Room 114 of the Capitol. The Senate hearing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in Room 212 of the Capitol. The public can attend in person or view the proceedings online at ilga.gov.

The federal judicial panel criticized Democratic lawmakers’ use of population estimates from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to draw the initial map adopted in the spring.

The fact that Democratic lawmakers then changed the map based on 2020 data in August and that Pritzker signed that amended map the following month did not reverse the legal issues that led to Tuesday’s decision, said the judges.

The court said the Census Bureau itself had advised state legislatures not to use the ACS estimates in the redistribution and instead wait for the delayed but official 2020 census population counts released at the end of this year. summer.

The population totals for the legislative districts in the original map deviated too much from the official population figures to pass the constitutional rally, the court said.

The judges rejected the Democrats’ argument that they faced a June 30 constitutional deadline to approve a new card, so they used the ACS estimates.

Waiting beyond June 30 would have transferred authority to a bipartisan commission, based on a section of the Illinois Constitution. If this commission were deadlocked, control of the card-making process would have rested with an additional Republican or Democrat added to the commission on the basis of a name taken from a hat.

“Neither the text nor the structure of the Illinois Constitution requires that the redistribution process be completed by June 30,” the judges said. “The constitution provides that under certain circumstances the General Assembly will not adopt a plan by June 30 and, in such cases, provides the commission as support.

“Four of the last five Illinois redistribution maps – all but the 2010 map – were drawn by a commission, not the General Assembly,” the judges said. “The reasons put forward by (the Democrats) show that they could have waited for the census data in August 2021 before producing the cards. The absence of such a compelling reason suggests that the defendants were motivated by a desire to avoid a commission.

The ruling continued: “Of course, political considerations are not unconstitutional and courts are reluctant to venture, let alone reverse, partisan cards, including those akin to political gerrymanders. … And we are not naive enough to imagine that a party in power would refuse to exercise the levers at its disposal to maximize its chances of retaining seats in the General Assembly.

“While there is nothing legally wrong with this approach, it is not an appropriate justification for violating constitutionally required mandates, including drawing districts of roughly equal population. In other words, the General Assembly cannot dilute a large percentage of votes to advance a preferred political outcome.

Contact Dean Olsen: [email protected]; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.

Editor’s Note: The current version of this story reflects changes made to the original published story to clarify and correct descriptions of several issues discussed in the Federal Court decision.

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