Federal Court Upholds Illinois’ New Legislative Maps

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued a ruling upholding the state’s new legislative maps after it took control of the process in October. The order stems from three cases challenging the maps that were consolidated by the court. All of the plaintiffs argued that the new maps, passed in September by the Illinois General Assembly, dilute minority voting strength, particularly among Latino and Black voters, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Some plaintiffs also argued that the new state House and Senate maps are racial gerrymanders that violate the 14th Amendment because race was the predominant factor in their drawing. Today, the panel rejected all of these claims, declining to order the creation of new maps that include more majority-Latino and majority-Black districts. 

In its opinion, the judges held that plaintiffs did not show the legislative districts dilute minority voting strength in violation of the VRA because they “failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that White or majority-bloc voting defeats minority candidates of choice,” a necessary requirement for proving racial vote dilution. Regarding the racial gerrymandering claims, the panel held that race was not the predominant factor in drawing any state House or Senate district — even though it may have been one factor of many considered in drawing certain districts — and therefore the maps are not racial gerrymanders that violate the 14th Amendment. The panel noted that “the voluminous evidence submitted by the parties overwhelmingly establishes that the Illinois mapmakers were motivated principally by partisan political considerations,” but explained that, as federal judges, their role in redistricting litigation is “limited and does not extend to complaints about excessive partisanship in the drawing of legislative districts.”

Read the decision here.