Brazen Gerrymander Challenged in Illinois

     CHICAGO (CN) – Gerrymandering of political districts is hardly new. But the League of Women Voters says the Illinois Legislature admitted it drew the state’s new districts for partisan reasons, writing into House and Senate resolutions “that each new district ‘was drawn taking into account the partisan composition of the District and of the Plan itself.'”
     In its federal complaint, the League of Women Voters says the cited language comes from House Resolution 385 and Senate Resolution 249.
     The League says the gerrymandering is an abuse of the First Amendment.
     “In violation of the First Amendment, the defendant governor and General Assembly have placed Illinois residents into new state legislative and congressional districts based at least in part on the partisan viewpoints and opinions such residents are likely to express or that they are likely to hear and receive,” the complaint states. “The redistricting principles set out in House Resolution 385 and Senate Resolution 249 state that each new district ‘was drawn taking into account the partisan composition of the District and of the Plan itself.’ The General Assembly and governor have unlawfully selected residents to speak, debate, assemble and vote in these districts based upon their political viewpoints and opinions, without safeguards against the misuse of such criteria to regulate or abridge First Amendment rights for partisan ends. The legislative leaders and governor claim that they have sought to establish competitive congressional and state legislative districts. However, there can be a partisan use of ‘competitiveness’ – pursued in some districts and ignored in others – which makes the political system of the state as a whole less responsive to shifts in public opinion. While the League of Women Voters of Illinois supports the idea that ‘competitiveness’ can be a goal, it seeks to bar any redistricting plan that seeks to create a particular balance of viewpoints, without appropriate safeguards against any possible abridgment or curtailment, for partisan ends, of First Amendment expressive activity. Accordingly, since the government has adopted a redistricting scheme based on partisan speech and other content-based expressive activity without any safeguards to ensure the least possible regulation or abridgment of such expressive activity, the plaintiff LWV of Illinois seeks to enjoin the implementation of the 2011 redistricting plan and replace it by using an impartial decision-making process to create a new map that either dispenses with content-based criteria or uses them in a neutral and transparent manner, for a legitimate nonpartisan government purpose.”
     Gov. Pat Quinn signed the gerrymandered districts into law without any changes. The League sued him and the eight members of the Illinois State Board of Elections. It wants the new districts enjoined as unconstitutional, and in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
     The League is represented by Thomas Geoghegan with Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan.
     Republican groups also have sued the state over its new gerrymander.

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