WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued an order that will determine the future of how the state’s House and Senate districts are drawn. In a consolidated case initially brought against Illinois’ legislative maps passed in June, the court ruled that 1) the legislative maps passed in June created with preliminary population data (“June maps”) are unconstitutional and cannot be used and 2) the court will take over the redistricting process going forward. It will use revised legislative maps passed by the Illinois Legislature in September following the release of 2020 census data (“September maps”) as a “starting point,” hear the parties’ opinions on the September maps and determine if they are constitutional.
This complicated legal order originates from two cases filed this summer after new state legislative maps were signed into law in early June. The Illinois Legislature used population estimates to draw new districts in the June maps (rather than waiting for the delayed release of census data) in order to meet a June 30 deadline, after which control of redistricting would have been passed to a commission. Two cases were filed, one by Republican leaders in the Illinois Legislature and another by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) on behalf of Latino voters, arguing that the June maps are malapportioned in violation of the constitutional principle of one person, one vote. After census data was released in August, the Legislature revised the June maps to address population differences between districts; these new maps were signed into law in September. However, the Legislature did not repeal the June maps, and the court found that the June maps present “a live controversy because no court has ruled that that map is unconstitutional, and…no assurances have been provided that the [state] would not enforce the June Redistricting Plan if the September Plan were invalidated.” Therefore, the court struck down the June maps while also assuming control of the redistricting process going forward, writing that the court “will proceed … toward the approval of a map for Illinois legislative districts for the next decade using the September Redistricting Plan as a starting point, but also carefully considering the legal challenges raised in the operative second amended complaints.”