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updated: 5/12/2011 5:35 PM

Illinois GOP files suit challenging remap process

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Aiming to ensure its voice isn't drowned out by the Democratic-controlled state House, Senate and governor's office, the party has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the way the political lines for congressional and General Assembly districts are drawn.

The lawsuit, filed by Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles and the Illinois Republican Party in Springfield Wednesday, asks the Supreme Court to declare the tiebreaking provision of the politically prickly redistricting process in violation of the state's constitution, and stop the General Assembly from completing the redistricting process until the court makes a decision.

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"Drawing a statewide map by a method involving random chance deprives the plaintiffs a republican form of government," the lawsuit reads.

Brien Sheahan, general counsel for the Illinois GOP, said the party decided to file the lawsuit as they were "beginning to see the fruits of the map" that's been drawn by Democratic state leaders.

"The map that Democrats produce will surely favor them and it's not the result of a transparent process," said Sheahan, of Elmhurst.

Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is also chair of the state Democratic Party, called the suit a "baffler," noting it was likely a waste of money for the GOP.

State lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn get to approve the map. In past years, stalemates between Democrats and Republicans would be broken when a name is drawn from a hat. But this year, Democrats could avoid that tiebreaker if they band together and approve a map without Republican input.

Maps could be released as early as next week, and votes are expected by the end of the month, putting the Republican suit in a time crunch, to say the least.

"We think that they certainly could take it up on an expedited basis," Sheahan said. "The court could certainly supervise an expedited process that would be more open, more transparent, that would produce fairer districts."

Brady was unavailable for comment.

Ken Johnson, another attorney for the plaintiffs, noted that the tiebreaking provision has been challenged in court before but this is more of "an in-depth, going back to the beginning type of argument. It goes back to the founding fathers of the constitution."

Johnson said the defendants, including the state election board, and House and Senate leaders of both parties, have just shy of two weeks to file objections. The justices could resolve the suit in a number of ways, by briefing the issue and allowing responses, by allowing testimony and arguments, or ruling solely on the lawsuit as is.

"Even if they deny it," Johnson said, "they still have the right to supervise the redistricting process."

• Daily Herald staff writer Mike Riopell contributed.

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