With the redistricting data from the 2020 census not yet released, the Illinois General Assembly drafted and passed a state legislative redistricting plan on May 28, 2021, using population estimates derived from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey ("ACS"), which the state's Governor signed into law on June 4, 2021. On June 9, 2021, the minority leaders of the Illinois Senate and Illinois House of Representatives filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois State Board of Elections, state election officials, the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and the President of the Illinois Senate, challenging the constitutionality of the enacted legislative plan. The plaintiffs allege that due to the inherent inaccuracies in the ACS's population estimates, the plan cannot ensure that the Senate and Representative Districts have substantially equal populations in violation of the one person, one vote principle under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. They also assert that the plan itself violates the Equal Protection Clause because the decision to use ACS data was arbitrary and discriminatory in that certain populations and areas will be over-estimated while others will be under-estimated, particularly in regards to minority populations. The plaintiffs are seeking a judicial declaration that the enacted legislative plan is unconstitutional and a permanent injunction barring the defendants from implementing the plan. Additionally, they are requesting a writ of mandamus requiring the defendants to appoint members to a bipartisan commission with the authority to enact a valid redistricting plan pursuant to the procedures laid out in Article IV, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution. On June 25, 2021, the court granted an unopposed motion to reassign a related case, Contreras v. Ill. State Bd. of Elections, to be handled by the same judge in this case.

On October 19, 2021, the district court issued an opinion granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs and striking down the June redistricting plan on the grounds it violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The court found that the plaintiffs had made out a prima facie case for a 14th Amendment one person, one vote claim by showing that the June plans had maximum deviations of 29.9% in House districts and 20.3% in Senate districts, deviations which are particularly large given the technological advances in redistricting. The court rejected the state's argument that the plans' deviations and underlying use of ACS figures were justified by the need to promptly pass redistricting plans given the delayed release of census data with ACS data being the "best alternative source" for redistricting data at that time, stating that there would have been ample time for the State to enact a plan following the August 2021 release of the official census data and noting the Census Bureau and several courts have explicitly stated that ACS data is not to be used for redistricting. The court also rejected the State's argument that they were under a "constitutional duty" to complete redistricting by June 30, explaining that the General Assembly's desire to retain map drawing authority does not justify violations of the one person, one vote constitutional principle. Notably, the court not only struck down the June redistricting plans, but also invalidated the September revisions to the plans using official 2020 Census data on the grounds they were substantially based off the malapportioned June plans. As for the remedy, the court stated it would treat the General Assembly's September 2021 plans as their remedial plans submission. Plaintiffs submitted their proposed remedial legislative plans on November 10, 2021. On November 17, 2021, the court established the following remedial phase deadlines: Defendants' remedial submissions due by November 24, 2021; Plaintiffs' reply submissions due by December 1, 2021; if a trial or hearing is needed, it will commence on December 7, 2021.

On December 30, 2021, the three-judge panel issued a per curiam opinion finding in favor of the defendants and upholding the challenged districts. The court found that there was sufficient evidence of crossover voting in the relevant areas to defeat the plaintiffs' claims of racially polarized voting, which is the third Gingles precondition required to establish a Section 2 violation. Furthermore, the court rejected the plaintiffs' racial gerrymandering claims on the grounds that the General Assembly's overwhelmingly predominant consideration when drawing the plans was political, not racial. While noting that partisan gerrymandering remained controversial, the court nevertheless cited the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling of federal nonjusticiability in Rucho v. Common Cause and stated that such issues are to be resolved outside the federal courts.


U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division - No. 1:21-cv-3091