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Why It's Silly for the GOP to Sue Over the Legislative Map

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Why It's Silly for the GOP to Sue Over the Legislative Map
Jack Higgins
Why It's Silly for the GOP to Sue Over the Legislative Map

I think Illinois’s new legislative map was an obnoxious power grab on the part of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. But it’s pretty rich for the Republican Party to take the map to federal court, on the grounds that the map violates Illinoisans’ democratic rights.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, and a group of unnamed “concerned citizens” (who are probably concerned about preserving GOP seats in the General Assembly) filed a lawsuit against the map in the Northern District of Illinois. They're upset because it pits 25 legislators against each other, but only eight Democrats. Here’s what Radogno has to say about it:

As we now go to court to protect the voting rights of all citizens, I think it is important to remember how easily this could have been avoided. The majority party denied Illinois citizens the opportunity to vote for a constitutional amendment that would have taken the redistricting process out of the hands of politicians and given it to an independent body. Had that occurred, I am confident a fair map that meets the requirements of the federal voting rights act would have been adopted. Instead, Illinois citizens must turn to the courts to protect their right to have their votes count.

Let’s be honest. The Republicans aren’t upset with the process. They’re upset with the results. If they’d been in power, they would have used the exact same rules to draw a map that dispossessed as many Democratic congressmen as possible. But they’re not in power. So they’re trying to use the courts to undo an act of the legislature, which is what they always accuse liberals of doing. The Republicans are also using Latinos as cover for their lawsuit, on the grounds that the new map doesn’t reflect the group’s population growth. This was after they tried to force the Census Bureau not to exclude illegal immigrants from congressional apportionment, because it would have added too many Democratic-leaning Latinos to the population.

As Greg Hinz notes in Crain's, minority groups are not as outraged on their own behalf as Republicans seem to be:

Other plaintiffs include African-American and Latino individuals, but no major groups from either of those communities. That could be significant, because the federal courts traditionally give huge weight to complaints from minority groups that feel they have been cheated of their opportunity to elect officials from their communities.

Illinoisans elected a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor. And so we got … a Democratic map. In Texas, Democratic operatives filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the Republicans’ 2003 mid-decade redistricting of the state's Congressional districts. The Supreme Court decided that redistricting is a state legislature’s prerogative, but ordered one district redrawn because it violated the Voting Rights Act. So maybe the best the Republicans can do is force the legislature to draw more minority districts … which would elect Democrats.

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