Redistricting round-up: Illinois lawmakers approve state leg., supreme court maps (and other news)

Ballot Bulletin

Redistricting round-up: Illinois lawmakers approve state leg., supreme court maps (and other news)

Last week, Illinois lawmakers approved revised maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court. The votes were as follows: 

  • State legislative redistricting plan (HB2777): 
    • House vote (May 28): 70-45
    • Senate vote (May 28): 40-18 
    • In both chambers, the vote split along party lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’
  • Supreme court redistricting plan (SB0642): 
    • House vote: 71-45
    • Senate vote: 40-18
    • In both chambers, the vote split along partisan lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’

In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. Maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. Illinois is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has not indicated whether he intends to sign HB2777 and SB0642 into law. 

Click the links below to view interactive presentations of the maps: 

Earlier developments and reactions: Illinois lawmakers released proposed maps on May 21. Sen. Omar Aquino (D), chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said, “Redistricting is about making sure all voices are heard, and that’s exactly what this map accomplishes. This is a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state and ensures every person receives equal representation in the General Assembly.”

Rep. Tim Butler (R) criticized the proposals: “Tonight’s drop of partisan maps is yet another attempt to mislead voters in an effort to block fair elections. We continue our call upon Governor Pritzker to live up to his pledge to the people of Illinois and veto a map that was drawn by politicians like what we see here today.”

Illinois lawmakers also released proposed maps for state supreme court districts, which were last redrawn in 1964. Illinois is divided into five supreme court districts. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. 

The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. However, according to The Chicago Tribune, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.” 

Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D), chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said it was necessary to redraw the court’s district maps to ensure more equal populations between districts: “This map is about equal representation in the state’s most important court. As we strive for all to be equal before the law, we must ensure we all have an equal voice in choosing those who uphold it.” 

The state Republican Party opposed the redrawn the state supreme court map: “This is a brazen abuse of our judicial system and nothing more than political gamesmanship with what should be an independent court, free of corrupt influence.”

Ohio: State settles lawsuit with U.S. Census Bureau over delivery of redistricting data 

On May 25, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) announced the state had reached a settlement agreement with the Census Bureau in its lawsuit over the Bureau’s plan to deliver redistricting data to the states by Sept. 30, instead of the April 1 statutory deadline. 

Under the settlement, the Census Bureau agreed to deliver redistricting data, in a legacy format, by August 16. The legacy format would present the data in raw form without the data tables and other access tools the Census Bureau will ultimately prepare for the states. The Census Bureau also agreed to deliver biweekly updates (and, in August, weekly updates) on its progress. 

Yost said: “This administration tried to drag its feet and bog this down in court, but Ohio always had the law on its side and now the federal government has finally agreed. It’s time to cough up the data.” 

The Census Bureau had previously indicated that states would get the data in a legacy format by mid-to-late August. In a March 15 statement, the Bureau said:

In declarations recently filed in the case of Ohio v. Raimondo, the U.S. Census Bureau made clear that we can provide a legacy format summary redistricting data file to all states by mid-to-late August 2021. Because we recognize that most states lack the capacity or resources to tabulate the data from these summary files on their own, we reaffirm our commitment to providing all states tabulated data in our user-friendly system by Sept. 30, 2021.

Wisconsin: State supreme court rejects proposed rule to give itself original jurisdiction over redistricting challenges 

On May 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a petition for a proposed rule that would have given the court original jurisdiction over redistricting lawsuits. When a court assumes original jurisdiction, it has the “power to hear and decide a matter before any other court can review the matter.”

On June 3, 2020, Scott Jensen and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the petition for the proposed rule. The plaintiffs cited the court’s 2002 opinion in Jensen v. Wisconsin Elections Board, saying the court had then “noted that redistricting was primarily a state and not a federal responsibility … but nevertheless deferred to the federal courts because of the perceived procedural problem of a lack of rules for such a case in [the state supreme court.” The petitioners asked the court to adopt the proposed rule “to cure the perceived procedural problems it noted in Jensen.”

In an unsigned order denying the petition, the court said, “The court determined that, as drafted, the procedures proposed in this administrative rule petition are unlikely to materially aid this court’s consideration of an as yet undefined future redistricting challenge, and voted to deny the petition.” The court added, “Our decision in this rule matter should not be deemed predictive of this court’s response to a petition for review asking this court to review a lower court’s ruling on a redistricting challenge or a request that we assume original jurisdiction over a future redistricting case or controversy.”

Texas Democrats stage walkout, blocking passage of election policy bill

On May 30, Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives staged a walkout in the final hours of the session, leaving the chamber without the quorum needed to vote on legislation. As a result, SB7 – a bill that would have made a number of changes to the state’s election laws – failed to pass by the midnight deadline. 

What did SB7 propose? The most recent version of SB7 would have made the following changes to the state’s election laws: 

  • Early voting: Provides that early voting cannot be conducted earlier than 6 a.m. or later than 9 p.m.
  • Absentee/mail-in voting: Establishes that the following do not constitute “sufficient cause to entitle a voter” to vote by mail: a lack of transportation; “a requirement to appear at the voter’s place of employment on election day,” or an “illness, injury, or disability that does not prevent the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needed personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.” Requires that absentee/mail-in voting applications be submitted in writing and signed “using ink on paper.” Prohibits electronic and photocopied signatures on absentee/mail-in ballot applications. Requires that the applicant submit either his or her driver’s license/personal identification number or the last four digits of his or her Social Security number.
  • Voter registration roll maintenance: Requires the secretary of state to “monitor each county’s list of registered voters to ensure that no county has a number of registered voters in the county equal to or greater than the number of people eligible to register to vote in the county.” If the secretary of state discovers such a discrepancy, local registrars must either refute that finding, in writing, or “develop a remediation plan to address failures to comply with voter roll maintenance provisions.” 
  • Polling places: Prohibits polling places from being located in “a tent or similar temporary movable structure or in a facility primarily designed for motor vehicles.” Prohibits universal drive-thru voting. 
  • Voting equipment: Effective Sept 1., 2026, establishes that “a voter system that consists of direct recording electronic voting machines may not be used in an election unless the system is an auditable voting system,” which is defined as a voting system that either uses a paper record or “produces a paper record by which a voter can verify that voter’s ballot will be counted accurate.” 
  • Vote tabulating equipment: Effective Jan 1, 2024, bars the use of tabulating equipment “if any wireless connectivity capability of the equipment has not been disabled or removed.” 
  • Video surveillance of sites with voted ballots: Requires that the custodians of election records in counties with populations of 100,000 or more “implement a video surveillance system that retains a record of all areas containing voted ballots from the time the voted ballots are delivered to the central counting station until the canvass of precinct election returns.” Requires that video be made available to the public via livestream. 
  • Poll watchers: Establishes that a poll watcher who is “entitled to ‘observe’ an election activity is entitled to sit or stand near enough to see and hear the activity.” 

What comes next? Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said reconsideration of SB7 would be added to the agenda of the upcoming special legislative session. It is not yet clear when the special session will be convened. 

Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 154 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of June 1, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 143 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of June 1, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 19 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of June 1, 2021