Mexican American civil rights group sues to block Illinois Democratic-drawn legislative maps

·2 min read

Only days after Republicans went to court challenging new Democratic-drawn Illinois legislative boundaries, a group backed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has filed a federal lawsuit asking to block the state from using the redistricting plan for next year’s election.

The suit, filed Thursday on behalf of five individuals of Latino heritage, contends the use of estimated survey data rather than specific data from the federal census has left the districts “malapportioned” in violation of the “one person, one vote” equal protection constitutional mandate.

Democrats used data from the American Community Survey, a product of the U.S. Census Bureau, and other unspecified “election data” to draw the new boundary lines for Illinois’ 118 House and 59 Senate seats. Democratic leaders said that was due to delays in specific federal census data caused by the pandemic and the Trump administration’s failed efforts to prevent noncitizens from being counted. Census results are not due until mid-August.

That meant the hard census numbers wouldn’t arrive until well after a June 30 deadline for the Democratic majority to draw the new boundaries and get them signed into law. Failure to beat the deadline would have set in motion a process that would have given Republicans a 50-50 chance at drawing the new boundaries.

The drafting of legislative maps traditionally dictates partisan control of the General Assembly for the next decade. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the maps into law June 4. Republicans have accused Pritzker of going back on a pledge advocating for an independently drawn map, and that message has become part of their theme that the governor, who is up for reelection next year, can’t be trusted.

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In their lawsuit, Republicans, also cited the use of survey data rather than hard census numbers. The GOP lawsuit seeks a three-judge panel to appoint a special master to direct new maps or order Democrats to put the partisan lottery procedure in effect.

The new MALDEF-backed suit asks for a court injunction to prevent the maps from being used and to direct Democrats to draw up “legislative plans that are equally apportioned as measured by the 2020 Census redistricting data” when it is released.

“The public still did not have access to the methodology and data used to populate individual representative and legislative districts. The General Assembly still has not released the alleged populations of the individual representative and legislative districts,” the lawsuit said.

Despite assurances from Democratic leaders that the maps meet state and federal voting rights laws and “purportedly ensure compliance with the ‘one-person, one-vote’ standard mandated by the Fourteenth Amendment … ACS data is inadequate for that purpose,” the lawsuit said.

The suit names the State Board of Elections and its individual members as well as Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside and Democratic Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park.

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