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Between the Lines: GOP Lawsuit in Illinois Charges Latino Discrimination

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
One West Virginia redistricting proposal would draw Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito into the same district as freshman GOP Rep. David McKinley (not pictured).

Republicans filed a lawsuit Wednesday to overturn the state’s recently redrawn Congressional boundaries, alleging the new map “blatantly discriminates against Latino and Republican voters.”

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last month a controversial new map that aimed to give the party an edge of four to five House seats in the next election.

Enraged Republicans are now taking legal action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, with the lawsuit specifically charging that Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s 4th district — known as the “earmuff district” for its odd shape — packs Latino voters into a supermajority district. Gutierrez has defended the map, drawn by Democrats.

“As a result of the Proposed Congressional Plan, Latino voters are packed into a single congressional district racially gerrymandered to capture an unnecessarily excessive super majority of Latino voters, so that the votes of Latinos inside and outside of that district are unlawfully diluted,” the lawsuit reads.

Only one Republican in the Illinois delegation did not sign on to the lawsuit: Rep. Timothy Johnson, who moved from his safe GOP seat into a competitive district in central Illinois under the new map. The six-term Republican told reporters last month that he didn’t think a lawsuit had much hope.

“While Congressman Johnson believes the redistricting process leading to this map was unfair and a distortion of the people’s wishes, these challenges have not ever succeeded, so he has decided to devote his energy and resources to his re-election campaign,” Johnson spokesman Phil Bloomer told Roll Call in an email. “He hopes that an impartial court will modify the map in a way that will better serve the voters of the state.”

Several well-known Illinois Republicans, including former Speaker Dennis Hastert, also signed on to the suit. 

If the courts take the case, a special three-judge panel would make the final decision.

Democrats say the lawsuit is a long shot, but there is a little precedent in Illinois for court intervention in redistricting.

After the Legislature failed to pass a Congressional map in 1990, the courts implemented the GOP-supported Congressional map.

Ironically, that map created a Latino district on the west side of Chicago. Gutierrez won that seat in the next election.


Haley Expected to Sign South Carolina’s New Lines

The Legislature passed a new Congressional map late Tuesday that adds a seventh Member to the Palmetto State’s House delegation, and a spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley (R) told Roll Call that she will soon sign it into law.

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