Here’s a summary of recent court challenges involving redistricting.
A three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled on Oct. 19 that Illinois’ legislative maps enacted in June were unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Illinois legislature initially enacted state legislative maps on June 4 using the American Community Survey (ACS) data, a demographics survey program conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau but distinct from the decennial census. Two sets of plaintiffs—Illinois’ House and Senate Republican leaders and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund—filed lawsuits challenging the state’s legislative redistricting plans arguing that the maps were malapportioned since they were based on ACS, rather than official census, data.
After the state received data from the Census Bureau in August 2021, the legislature reconvened and adopted revised maps that Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) signed into law on Sept. 24. The June maps were never explicitly repealed. Both sets of plaintiffs filed amended complaints on Oct. 1 arguing that the September maps violated the Voting Rights Act since they reduced the number of Latino opportunity districts—where Latinos make up more than 50% of the population—despite the growth in the state’s Latino population over the preceding decade.
The three-judge panel ruled that the maps adopted in June were invalid and set a November hearing schedule regarding the plaintiffs’ amended complaints challenging the September redistricting plans.
On Oct. 25, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments from the following individuals and organizations regarding the state’s legislative redistricting plan: the Colorado Republican Committee, Colorado Republican State Senate Caucus, and Colorado Republican State House Caucus; Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization; Fair Lines Colorado; and, Thomas E. Norton, a former mayor of Greeley, Colorado. Following the oral arguments, the state supreme court ordered the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission to submit information explaining its decisions to split the City of Lakewood into two Senate districts and place a part of Jefferson County into Senate District 4.
The redistricting commission submitted its final map to the state supreme court on Oct. 15, which set the court’s deadline to decide on the map for Nov. 15. Following that submission, nine organizations and individuals submitted briefs to the supreme court in support of or opposition to the final approved legislative proposal.
On Oct. 25, two residents of Lane County, Oregon, filed a lawsuit before the Oregon Supreme Court challenging the boundaries of two districts in the state’s newly enacted House of Representatives redistricting plan. The lawsuit said, “That line was not based upon consideration of any permissible districting criteria, but was the result of an effort by Legislative Assembly leadership to protect one incumbent from a primary challenge.” It went on to say that “this case does not involve the momentous issues of a wholly partisan-gerrymandered map […] it involves violations of law important to people in one part of Oregon that, respectfully, this Court should require the Secretary of State to correct.”
Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed Oregon’s state legislative maps into law on Sept. 27. The House of Representatives approved the maps 31-18, and the state Senate 18-11. These maps take effect for Oregon’s 2022 legislative elections.