Illinois Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s

People ex rel. Burris v. Ryan147 Ill.2d 270, 588 N.E.2d 1023; 588 N.E.2d 1033 (Ill. 1991), cert. denied sub nom. Gardner v. Ryan, 504 U.S. 973 (1992), reh'g denied 505 U.S. 1238 (1992), pet. to vacate judgment denied 158 Ill.2d 469, 634 N.E.2d 1066 (1994)

A Republican legislative redistricting map was approved by the Illinois Redistricting Commission (5-4) and filed with the Secretary of State.  The State Attorney General appealed from adoption of that plan to the Illinois Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court first remanded (5-2) to the Commission for further proceedings because they had been presented with insufficient facts to "ascertain with certainty whether the district lines meet legal guidelines."  The court had found that several districts did not meet constitutionally mandated requirements for compactness and racial dilution.

After further hearings, the Commission revised its map.  A second map was considered by the commission.  Both maps were presented to the Court.  Indicating that the Court did not have the resources to draw its own map, the Court proceeded to condemn the unique process of redistricting used in Illinois: "[W]e do not find that a lottery or a flip of a coin is in the best interests of anyone except the party which has won the toss.  The rights of the voters should not be part of a game of chance."  The Court held that "the parties opposing the [Commission's] map must establish that not only their map or maps are superior, but that the Commission map is against the manifest weight of the evidence."  The Court then ruled (4-3) that the Commission's map was valid.   The two dissenting opinions supported, respectively, drawing a court determined redistricting map and holding that the tie-breaking procedure set out in the Illinois Constitution violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Court denied, over vigorous dissents, a petition to vacate the judgment upholding the Republican map.  The judgment was challenged after revelations concerning the political ambitions of the justice who cast the deciding vote.  The justice (a life-long Democrat) was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Court, but decided to run for the Court as a Republican because (in his own words) he "may have been ticked off at the Democratic party for not asking me if I wanted to run . . . ."

Legislative Redistricting Commission v. LaPaille786 F. Supp. 704 (N.D. Ill. 1992) (legislative plan approved), 792 F. Supp. 1110 (N.D. Ill. 1992) (motion for new trial denied), aff'd sub nom. Gardner v. Illinois Legislative Redistricting Commission, 506 U.S. 948 (1992) (mem.)

The Illinois Legislative Redistricting Commission and its Republican majority sought a declaration that their plan complied with relevant federal and state laws.  A group of African American and a group of Hispanic voters filed counterclaims after the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the Republican map.  The three-judge panel allowed some of the minority voters counterclaims to proceed, ruling that the federal case was not barred by either res judicata or the Rooker-Feldman doctrine because the Illinois Supreme Court did not clearly consider, nor make any findings concerning the Voting Rights Act or the Fourteenth  and Fifteenth Amendments.

The Court addressed two issues under the Voting Rights Act:  the adequacy of the minority "super-majority" districts in the Republican map and allegations of fracturing of minority influence in downstate legislative districts.  In both issues, the Court sided with the expert witness backing the Republican map over the experts called by the minority voters.

The Court found that the map drawn by the Republican majority of the commission did not have a discriminatory effect, nor did the commission have a discriminatory motive.  The Court held, therefore, that the Republican map did not violate the equal protection rights of the minority voters under the Fourteenth Amendment or their voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

Hastert v. Board of Elections777 F. Supp. 634 (N.D. Ill. 1991) (congressional plan adopted), 794 F. Supp. 254 (N.D. Ill. 1992) (attorneys' fees denied)

Illinois lost two Congressional seats under reapportionment following the 1990 census.  The Illinois General Assembly failed to approve a redistricting plan for the Illinois Congressional delegation.  Thus, a three-judge panel declared the map adopted in 1981 unconstitutional.  Two sets of plaintiffs filed competing maps with the Court.  Either map would have satisfied the relevant constitutional and legal criteria if they had been passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  In the absence of such a legislatively approved map, the Court decided between the two maps on the basis of the relevant constitutional and legal criteria.

The Republican-sponsored map was found to have a more precisely equal distribution of population (two districts had one more person than the ideal of 571,530).  The Democratic plan had an overall range of 17 persons (from a high of nine above to eight below the ideal).  On the basis of this neutral criterion, the Republican map was preferred.  The Court also found that the Republican map had a slightly higher percentage of minorities in the four super-majority districts proposed by both maps (always a difference of less than one percent).  The irregularly shaped Hispanic super-majority district survived scrutiny and was supported by all parties.

The Court rejected challenges to the Republican map based on "influence district," "political fairness,"  or "community of interest" grounds.  The Democratic challenges to the Republican map on these issues were not, in the Court's opinion, backed by sufficient evidence or adequate legal precedent.  The Court also rejected a challenge concerning the border between two African American super-majority districts.  The border dispute concerned intraparty factions and not partisan, racial, or ethnic concerns protected under constitutional or federal legal analysis.

Tucker v. U.S. Department of Commerce953 F.2d 160; 958 F.2d 1411 (7th Cir. 1992), cert. denied 506 U.S. 953 (1992)

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion by Judge Posner, agreed with a federal district court that the plaintiffs had no right to an injunction concerning the methods used by the Commerce Department in the 1990 census.  While the plaintiffs might have been able to make out a case for Article III standing, they failed under the "intended plaintiff" test to demonstrate that they had been given the right to litigate the issues they raised.  The opinion concluded, "a case about statistical methodology is a case whose gears fail to mesh with any judicially enforceable federal rights."

PAC for Middle America v. State Board of Elections, No. 95 C 827, 1995 WL 571887 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 22, 1995) (motion to dismiss denied) 1995 WL 571893 (N.D. Ill. Sep. 22, 1995) (motions to intervene granted), decided sub nom. King v. State Board of Elections979 F. Supp. 582 (N.D. Ill. 1996), judgment vacated sub nom. King v. Illinois Board of Elections, 117 S. Ct. 429 (1996) (mem.)

Following the Supreme Court's decision in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993), citizen plaintiffs in Illinois attacked the "ear muff" Fourth Congressional District in Chicago under the Equal Protection Clause. The district had been drawn by the federal district court In Hastert to create an Hispanic-voting-majority district without diminishing the African American voting strength in three adjacent districts with African American majorities.  When forced to review the prior decision in the light of Shaw and Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900 (1995), another three-judge court adopted the findings of the Hastert panel but gave no deference to the Hastert panel on the Equal Protection claim.  The Court rejected the Democratic National Committee's contention (in an amicus brief) that Shaw and Miller do not apply to court-ordered redistricting maps, but only to legislatively-drawn maps.

The Court found that "racial considerations predominated in the configuration of" the district, subjecting it to strict scrutiny analysis (citing Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995)).  The Court, however, held that the district's configuration served a compelling state interest, namely, redressing "an established Section 2 violation" against the Hispanic community in Chicago.  Deferring to the balancing of the Hastert court, the panel determined that the district was a narrowly-tailored remedy.  The Court concluded that the district did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

King v. Illinois Board of Elections117 S. Ct. 429 (1996) (mem.)

Plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded to the district court for further consideration in light of its decisions in the North Carolina and Texas congressional district cases, Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1995) and Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952 (1996).

King v. State Board of Elections979 F. Supp. 619 (N.D. Ill. 1997), aff'd 118 S. Ct. 877 (1998) (mem.)

On remand, the federal district court again found that the Fourth Congressional District survived strict scrutiny.  The Court stated that according to its reading of Supreme Court precedent "remedying a potential violation of or achieving compliance with § 2 [of the Voting Rights Act] is a compelling state interest."  The Court then analyzed its prior ruling under the newly-devised test for narrow tailoring of districts under § 2.  Consideration of race in the drawing of the Fourth District, the Court concluded, was "no more than reasonably necessary to fulfill its remedial purpose" and thus was narrowly tailored. Therefore, District 4 did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

This time, on appeal, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed.

State Contact

Timothy D. Mapes
Chief of Staff
House Democratic Staff
State House, Room 300
Springfield, IL 62706
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217/524-1794 fax