Lawsuit over redistricting amended

SPRINGFIELD - Attorneys for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have filed an amended complaint in federal court in a lawsuit that seeks to block a newly enacted legislative redistricting plan from going into effect.

The amended complaint, filed Wednesday in the Northern District of Illinois, is intended to address some of the issues raised in a recent motion by Democratic leaders in the General Assembly to dismiss the case.

Specifically, the new complaint argues that each of the individually named plaintiffs - Julie Contreras, Irvin Fuentes, Abraham Martinez, Irene Padilla and Rose Torres - lives within districts that are malapportioned under the new maps and that, as a result, their votes would be diluted in the 2022 elections.

The new complaint also argues that the Illinois State Board of Elections and each of its individual members are responsible for administering the elections.

The suit, which was filed June 10, seeks a declaration that the new maps violate the U.S. Constitution's one person-one vote requirement because they are based on population estimates from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey rather than official numbers from the 2020 census. It also asks the court to bar the State Board of Elections from administering next year's races based on those maps.

It is one of two lawsuits challenging the new maps and the cases are being heard together by a three-judge federal panel in Chicago. The other suit was filed by the top two Republican leaders in the General Assembly, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, and Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods.

Both lawsuits also name House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, a Hillside Democrat, and Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, as defendants.

The new maps were approved along partisan lines in the final days of the spring legislative session. Democratic leaders argued that the use of ACS data was appropriate because official census numbers won't be available until mid-August, long past the June 30 date set in the Illinois Constitution for lawmakers to approve a redistricting plan.

After that date, under the state constitution, the process is handed to a bipartisan commission where partisan advantage could be determined by a random draw.

On July 16, attorneys for Welch and Harmon filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing, among other things, that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they had not asserted that they were personally and individually disadvantaged by the plan.

They also argued that there is nothing in state or federal law that requires the use of official census data in drawing state legislative districts and, in fact, that courts throughout the country, including in Illinois, have allowed the use of ACS estimates.

Finally, they argued that the case is not ripe for litigation because it won't be known until the official census numbers come out whether the new maps violate the standards that courts have set for equal representation.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 24, about one week after the official census numbers are expected to be released. Trial in the case is tentatively set for Sept. 27-29.

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