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GOP sues Democrats over new legislative maps, arguing citizens were ‘robbed’ and deserve ‘their day in court’

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, chair of the House Redistricting Committee said Republicans are “doing everything in their power to block a map that reflects the true diversity of Illinois in hopes that they get a chance to single handedly draw a map for their political gain.” 

State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, third from right, joins other Republicans in May urging Gov. JB Pritzker to veto the redrawn maps.
State Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, third from right, joins other Illinois House and Senate Republicans at a news conference last month called to ask Gov. J.B. Pritzker to veto the newly drawn maps.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

Republicans took the Democrats and state election officials to court Wednesday over the new legislative maps, filing a federal lawsuit that argues the boundaries signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker are unconstitutional because they are not based on actual U.S. census population figures.

State House Republican Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs and Senate GOP Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods name House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon, members of the Democratic leaders’ staffs and the Illinois State Board of Elections in the suit.

“The tone-deaf Democratic party of Illinois has robbed citizens of a fair and transparent legislative map-making process, and I plan to be a conduit for Illinois citizens who demand honesty by ensuring they also have their day in court,” Durkin said in a statement.

In their suit, the Republican leaders say the General Assembly passed its redistricting proposal “despite lacking the official population counts from the census.”

The estimates Democrats relied on from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey “are not intended to be, and are not, a proper substitute for the official census counts” and any maps relying on those “estimates cannot create substantially equal legislative districts,” the lawsuit contends.

“The [redistricting] plan ensures that historically undercounted minority communities will continue to be underrepresented and lose their right to an equal vote in the legislature by foregoing the official census counts in favor of the ACS estimates,” the Republicans argue in their suit.

Durkin and McConchie requested a special three-judge panel hear the case.

Federal law dictates that a three-judge panel oversee cases when the constitutionality of a redistricting plan for a statewide legislative body comes under scrutiny, according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.

Along with asking the court to rule the map unconstitutional, the leaders are asking it to take the map-making out of the hands of legislators, either through the creation of a bipartisan commission “with the responsibility for enacting a redistricting plan” or for a court-appointed “special master” to draw “valid” maps.

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, chair of the House Redistricting Committee said in a statement Republicans are “doing everything in their power to block a map that reflects the true diversity of Illinois in hopes that they get a chance to single handedly draw a map for their political gain.”

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, speaks at a news conference in Springfield in May.
State Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, speaks at a news conference in Springfield in May.
BlueRoomStream

In a joint statement, Chicago Democratic Senators Omar Aquino and Elgie Sims, who serve as chair and vice chair of the senate’s redistricting committee said they were disappointed, but not surprised, by the Republican lawsuit.

“Throughout this process, they have done nothing but delay and obstruct efforts to ensure our communities are fairly represented, as seen by their refusal to even draft their own proposals,” their statement continued. “We stand by our work to ensure everyone has a voice in state government.”

State Sen. Elgie Sims, left, and state Sen. Omar Aquino, who headed the Democratic efforts to draw the new maps, met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in April over Zoom.
State Sen. Elgie Sims, left, and state Sen. Omar Aquino, who headed the Democratic efforts to draw the new maps, met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in April over Zoom.
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When Pritzker signed the maps into law on Friday, the Democratic governor said the “boundaries align with both the federal and state Voting Rights Acts, which help to ensure our diverse communities have electoral power and fair representation.”

But in a statement released on Wednesday, Durkin said, “The partisan process upon which the legislative maps were drawn flies in the face of the strong recommendations made by countless advocacy groups and citizens who testified at the redistricting hearings.”

McConchie said in a statement the suit is the “best option to advocate for the 75 percent of voters who were refused an independent process and a map created with accurate data.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left; House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, right.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left; House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, right.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

“More than 50 independent groups asked the Legislature not to use American Community Survey sampling estimates, and instead wait for the actual census counts to be released, but the politicians in power ignored them,” McConchie said, arguing the American Community Survey “estimates have never before been used for redistricting in Illinois.”

Rather than wait for the actual census figures, Democrats pushed the maps through the state House and Senate last month to beat a June 30 deadline.

Had they failed to pass maps by then, the state constitution mandates the creation of an eight-person bipartisan panel to take over the task. And when that evenly split panel inevitably deadlocks, a ninth member is randomly chosen by the Illinois secretary of state — giving the Republicans a 50-50 chance of taking over the map-drawing tools.

Democrats argued that was the minority party’s strategy all along, waiting for their own chance at power, not favoring an independent panel.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris, D-Chicago, accused Republicans last month of trying to “take [the map-making] decision away from folks with a name out of a hat, in the hope that perhaps you could attain power again.”

But Republicans, including state Rep. Ryan Spain of Peoria, argued last month the Democrats’ remap strategy is straight from “the Mike Madigan playbook” and is a “further attempt to skirt any transparency.”