NAACP submits Metro East map plan

https://ift.tt/30eSQkf

SPRINGFIELD – Plaintiffs in three lawsuits challenging Illinois’ new legislative district maps – including one that could impact state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville – have submitted proposed changes to a three-judge federal court panel.

Democrats pushed the redistricting maps through the General Assembly earlier this year. The changes proposed by the litigants would create more Latino- and Black-majority districts in the Metro East and Cook County.

The map challenges will be the subject of a combined hearing tentatively set for the week of Dec. 6, although exact dates have not yet been announced. The filings this week also included written testimony of expert witnesses and arguments as to why the plaintiffs believe the maps are unconstitutional and violate the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The filings were submitted by the East St. Louis branch of the NAACP, Chicago-area Latino voters represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the two top Republican leaders in the General Assembly, Sen. Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, and Rep. Jim Durkin, of Western Springs.

All three of the suits name House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and the Illinois State Board of Elections, along with its individual members, as defendants. They seek an order to block the Illinois State Board of Elections from implementing the maps Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Sept. 24 and to adopt the new maps they have submitted to the court.

The NAACP in East St. Louis argues that Black areas in and around the city that could have made up a Black-majority district were deliberately broken up and spread across separate House districts to protect two white incumbent Democrats.

Its filing focuses on three House districts – the 112th currently held by Stuart; the 113th, a safe Democratic district currently held by Rep. Jay Hoffman, of Swansea; and the 114th, currently held by Rep. LaToya Greenwood.

Their proposal would reconfigure all three districts to make the 114th District a Black-majority district.

The NAACP argues there has been a long history of racial discrimination against Blacks in East St. Louis and surrounding communities since Blacks began moving there in the early 20th century in search of industrial jobs. That culminated in race riots in 1917 which led to the murder of “an untold number of Black men and women,” their filing states.

Over the past 10 years, they note, the region has seen a “seismic loss” of population and a shift of its Black population out of East St. Louis and into surrounding suburbs, resulting in increasingly competitive races in some districts.

They say the redistricting was designed solely to protect Stuart and Hoffman. They argue that Democrats in the General Assembly moved a large number of Black voters, who tend strongly to vote Democratic, out of Hoffman’s district and into Stuart’s. They then replaced those voters by moving a large number of Black voters out of Greenwood’s district back into Hoffman’s, and moved a large number of mostly white voters from other districts into Greenwood’s.

They allege the move “ultimately lessened the election prospects of the only Black state representative elected to the legislature from the entire Metro East area or even Southern Illinois, all in order to bolster the prospects of a white incumbent" in District 112.”

All three sets of plaintiffs rely heavily on a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court precedent from North Carolina, Thornburg v. Gingles, which set out three factors needed to invalidate legislative district maps on the grounds of racial discrimination.

Under that standard, plaintiffs must show that the minority groups at issue are sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; that the minority groups are politically cohesive; and that the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc such that it can usually defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.

Like the NAACP plaintiffs, the GOP suit argues the September maps unfairly break up the Black population in the Metro East region when it is possible to create a compact Black-majority district.

The proposed GOP maps would create four House districts in northern Cook County where Latinos make up a majority of the citizen voting age population, seven Latino-majority districts in southern Cook County and one district in nearby Aurora, District 50, where Latinos make up slightly less than half the voting age population but would still have an opportunity to elect a Latino candidate.
Their plan would also create a Black-majority House district centered in East St. Louis.

“The September Map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 … by diluting the votes of minority citizens and by preventing such citizens from participating equally in the political process and having an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” attorneys for the GOP plaintiffs argued. “Among other problems with the September Map, the drafters committed a fundamental error by falsely assuming there is no racially polarized voting in Illinois and failing to properly consider race and ethnicity when drawing the districts in the map as required by the VRA.”

During legislative debates over redistricting, Republicans declined to offer their own map proposals, arguing they believed redistricting should be done by an independent commission rather than elected officials who have a direct interest in the outcome.

They initially sued in June after lawmakers passed their first redistricting plan using population estimates instead of official U.S. Census numbers, hoping that by invalidating those maps they could trigger a provision in the Illinois Constitution that hands the process to a bipartisan commission if no legislatively-approved map is “effective” by June 30 in the year following a decennial census.

A three-judge panel ruled the June maps were unconstitutional. The GOP argues the General Assembly was given a “second bite at the apple” by coming back for a special session in late August and redrawing the maps using official census data.

“We submitted a proposal that fixes specific constitutional problems with the current map that had only served to keep entrenched incumbents in power,” Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, chair of the Senate Republican caucus said in a statement Thursday. “Democrats led by Governor Pritzker had only one thing in mind when drawing their map – protecting politicians at the expense of the people of Illinois.”

In their filing, MALDEF argues there is a long history of anti-Latino discriminatory practices in Illinois elections, particularly in Cook County, that have affected their ability to register, vote, “or otherwise participate in the democratic process.” Those have included such things as gerrymandered districts to dilute Latino voting strength, lengthy residency requirements for voting in some jurisdictions, voter intimidation and harassment at the polls, and overt and subtle racial appeals in political campaigns.

Latinos now make up 11.2 percent of Illinois’ population, the MALDEF attorneys argue, but the maps enacted in September contain only four out of 118 House districts with majorities of Latino citizen voting age populations, and only two of 58 Senate districts

Their proposal focuses exclusively on southwest Chicago and its adjoining suburbs. It would create a total of 10 Latino-majority House districts, Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 21, 22, 23 and 24 – and four Latino-majority Senate districts – Districts 1, 2, 11 and 12.

All three sets of plaintiffs rely heavily on a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court precedent from North Carolina, Thornburg v. Gingles, which set out three factors needed to invalidate legislative district maps on the grounds of racial discrimination.

Under that standard, plaintiffs must show that the minority groups at issue are sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; that the minority groups are politically cohesive; and that the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc such that it can usually defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.

via Alton Telegraph

November 12, 2021 at 11:48AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s