Republicans sue over Illinois redistricting
By The Associated Press July 20, 2011 9:04PM
Updated: November 2, 2011 2:53AM
Top Illinois Republicans filed a lawsuit Wednesday to invalidate the state’s new Democratic-drawn legislative district map, a move that was expected as the GOP tries to mitigate the political damage that the new boundary lines could inflict.
House Republican leader Tom Cross and Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno contend in the lawsuit that the map shortchanges blacks and Latinos and dilutes the voting strength of Republicans. Four individual voters also were named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court against the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Democrats were in charge of the redistricting process, which was based on the latest census, because they control both the Legislature and the governor’s office. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the map into law last month.
“They should be ashamed of themselves. We are optimistic that the court will agree with us and will help give our residents a fair map that accurately reflects our population, especially our growing Latino population,” Cross said in a statement. The GOP also alleged the map was not available publicly long enough for sufficient review.
This certainly won’t be the last lawsuit over redistricting in Illinois. Some of the state’s big-name Republicans also are expected to file a lawsuit challenging the state’s new congressional divisions. That map also lumps Republican incumbents together in an effort to try to erase GOP gains in the U.S. House. Illinois sent five freshman Republicans to Congress in the 2010 election — four who unseated Democrats and one who won Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk’s old House seat in Chicago’s northern suburbs.
Quinn’s office defended the redrawn General Assembly map that creates new state House and Senate districts.
“This open and transparent process resulted in a map that represents our diverse state and protects the voting rights of minorities,” Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said in a statement. Quinn was not available to comment because he is out of the country on a trip to Israel.
Among other things, the Republicans’ lawsuit claims the new map doesn’t create enough opportunities for Latino voters to elect representatives of their choosing and doesn’t create enough majority black voting districts as it could.
Sen. Kwame Raoul and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the two Chicago Democratic lawmakers who oversaw redistricting, were confident the map would stand up to a legal challenge. Raoul said they had advice from an expert to ensure the map complied with the Voting Rights Act when it came to the makeup of minority districts.
“I feel confident that the map that we passed into law will pass muster,” Raoul said.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, said it still was studying the state redistricting map and the Republicans’ lawsuit.
State Sen. Martin Sandoval, of Cicero, said he supports the new state legislative map and was critical of the Republicans’ lawsuit.
“They’re Johnny-come-latelies in supporting the Latino community in Illinois,” he said. Sandoval said he would be “very critical” of any Latino groups who join the GOP suit.
The GOP lawsuit also complained that the map sets 25 incumbent Republican members of the General Assembly against one another while only eight Democratic incumbents find themselves in that position.
“The redistricting plan’s pitting significantly more incumbent Republicans against one another than incumbent Democrats is a deliberate attempt to enhance Democrats’ prospects for re-election and targets Republicans to prevent their re-election,” according to the lawsuit.
Republicans want the map redrawn if their lawsuit is successful.
Deanna Bellandi can be reached at: www.twitter.com/deannabellandi