CHICAGO – An Illinois redistricting plan approved by Gov. J.B. Pritzker is unconstitutional and violates the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, according to an updated lawsuit filed last week by a Latino civil rights group.
The amended suit, filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) on behalf of Latino voters, adds challenges to redistricting plans signed by Pritzker on September 24 as unlawfully diluting the Latino vote and effectively preventing Latinos from meaningful participation in state elections. The Illinois General Assembly passed those plans, known as SB927, at the end of August.
“The Illinois legislature has once again acted in its own interests rather than in service of the entire population of the state,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “The Latino community has been harmed through the elimination of Latino-opportunity districts, and the failure to recognize the growth of the Latino community in new opportunities to elect candidates of choice to the legislature.”
MALDEF first sued state officials in June after lawmakers put forth proposed maps that relied on population estimates from the American Community Survey rather than decennial Census data. At the time, the U.S. Census Bureau had not released redistricting data yet but lawmakers pushed forward with new maps. The complaint contended that the Illinois plan relied on inaccurate data, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection guarantee of “one person, one vote.”
Last week’s filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division follows the adoption of a new set of maps that use Census redistricting data. The updated complaint adds two new claims.
MALDEF attorneys contend that in the new maps state officials failed to take account of the significant growth of the Latino community over the past decade. In fact, not only did the state officials fail to add new Latino-opportunity districts, the plan reduces the number of such districts in violation of Section 2 of the VRA. According to the amended complaint, the new maps should have increased the number of Latino-opportunity districts to nine house districts and four senate districts. Instead, the maps drawn in August by lawmakers only have six Latino districts.
“Latinos showed the most population growth in Illinois over the last decade while the state population shrank overall, but the General Assembly still found a way to give Latinos less representation in the August maps,” said Ernest I. Herrera, a MALDEF staff attorney representing plaintiffs.
Additionally, attorneys argue, the maps drawn for one house district and one senate district are racially gerrymandered in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because they were drawn using race as a predominant factor.
The amended complaint asks the court for a permanent injunction prohibiting the use of both sets of plans and for new plans that comply with the law. It also adds voters who live in the districts being challenged in the amended lawsuit as plaintiffs.
Read the amended complaint HERE.