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Politicking Won’t Upend New Illinois District Map

(CN) - A panel of federal judges has roundly rejected claims from Republican lawmakers that the new Illinois congressional district map unconstitutionally discriminate against Latino voters.

The U.S. Constitution requires lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional district boundaries after each census. Since Illinois lost one congressional seat based on the 2010 census results, the boundaries of the state's remaining 18 congressional districts had to be redrawn.

The state passed the Illinois Congressional Redistrict Act of 2011 in June based on the map recommended by the Board of Elections. But a nonprofit organization made up of 10 incumbent Republican Congresspersons and six registered voters filed suit, alleging that the state Legislature intentionally discriminated against Latinos in passing the adopted map.

Last week, a three-judge panel refused to grant a permanent injunction demanded by the Committee for a Fair and Balanced Map and dismissed their case with prejudice.

"Although we agree with the committee that the crafting of the adopted map was a blatant political move to increase the number of Democratic congressional seats, ultimately we conclude that the committee failed to present a workable standard by which to evaluate such claims," the unsigned decision states.

The 55-page decision notes that "the adopted map places three Republican incumbents into heavily Democratic district with a Democratic incumbent and places two other Republican incumbents into the same district."

Yet still the judges were skeptical of the committee's proposed standard that the adopted map should increase the number of districts that favor Democrats by only 10 percent. "What accepted principles of equal protection jurisprudence point to the conclusion that 10 percent deviation is the appropriate cut off," the judges asked.

While the adopted map does dilute the Latino vote, the court said that "the committee has not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the state legislature intentionally discriminated against Latinos in passing the adopted map."

On the contrary, "the weight of evidence shows that the predominant intent of the 2011 Illinois Legislature was a desire to enhance Democratic seats in the state as a whole."

"There is nothing unconstitutional about considering politics when redrawing district lines," according to the Dec. 15 decision, signed by 7th Circuit Judge John Tinder, U.S. District Judge Robert Miller of South Bend, Ind., and U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow of Chicago.


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