Before the 2020 Census redistricting data was released, the Illinois General Assembly drafted and passed state legislative redistricting plans 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 plans. The plaintiffs alleged due to the inherent inaccuracies in the ACS's population estimates, the plans could not ensure substantially equally populated Senate and Representative Districts in violation of the one person, one vote principle under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. They also asserted the plans violated the Equal Protection Clause because the decision to use ACS data was arbitrary and discriminatory in that certain populations and areas would be over-estimated while others would be under-estimated, particularly areas with large minority populations. The plaintiffs sought a judicial declaration that the enacted legislative plans were unconstitutional and a permanent injunction barring the defendants from implementing the plans in future elections. Additionally, they requested a writ of mandamus requiring the defendants to appoint members to a bipartisan commission with the authority to enact valid redistricting plans pursuant to the procedures laid out in article IV, § 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 the same judge handling this case. On September 24, 2021 Illinois enacted replacement legislative plans which revised the June ACS plans using the official 2020 Census population figures. The plaintiffs amended their claims to challenge these new plans as violating § 2 of the Voting Rights Act and as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

On October 19, 2021 the district court issued an opinion granting summary judgment to the plaintiffs and striking down the June redistricting plans on the grounds they violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The court found the plaintiffs had made out a prima facie case for a 14th Amendment one person, one vote claim by showing the June plans had maximum population deviations of 29.9% in House districts and 20.3% in Senate districts, deviations which were 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, stating there would've been ample time for the state to enact plans following the official census data release in August 2021 and noting the Census Bureau and several courts had explicitly stated that ACS data is not to be used for redistricting. The court also rejected the state's argument 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 revised plans 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 plans as their remedial plans submission. Plaintiffs submitted their proposed remedial legislative plans on November 10, 2021.

On December 30, 2021 the three-judge panel issued an opinion finding in favor of the defendants and upholding the challenged districts. The court found 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 § 2 violation. Furthermore, the court rejected the plaintiffs' racial gerrymandering claims on the grounds the General Assembly's overwhelmingly predominant consideration when drawing the plans was political, not racial, gerrymandering. 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 such issues are to be resolved outside the federal courts.

Related Cases: Contreras v. Ill. State Bd. of Elections; East St. Louis Branch of the NAACP v. Ill. State Bd. of Elections


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