Voting rights litigation
We have taken years to investigate possible voting rights violations throughout Illinois and the Midwest. We are currently litigating over two main issues, described below.
curbing partisan gerrymandering
November 21, 2016: In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge federal district court panel in Wisconsin today ruled the state's Republican leaders had unconstitutionally drawn electoral districts to "entrench" their control over the state Assembly. Read the decision here. The parties now have 30 days to submit their proposals for the nature and timing of the remedial process. It will then be appealed by the state to the Supreme Court.
UPDATE: December 17, 2015: "A federal three-judge panel today unanimously rejected Attorney General Brad Schimel’s motion to dismiss a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit filed by 12 Wisconsin Democrats. The ruling in Whitford v. Nichol means this case will continue, with trial scheduled for May 2016." Read more
Partisan gerrymandering is currently at an all-time high. Across America, parties manipulate district lines for their own partisan advantage, and voters are denied an effective voice in electing their representatives. This distortion of our democracy can and should be stopped by the courts. On several occasions, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that gerrymandering can violate the Fourteenth Amendment, and some Justices have hinted that it may be unlawful under the First Amendment as well. Despite these comments, the Court has been unable to come up with a workable legal standard for distinguishing valid from invalid maps. But the Court is clearly open to new ideas in this area.
We have filed suit alleging that the Wisconsin state legislative districts are a partisan gerrymander, and are seeking to apply a test that would limit the extent of partisan gerrymandering not just in Wisconsin, but across the country.
improving minority representation
Success story: blue island
Less than a year after releasing The Color of Representation, we had our first success in improving local minority representation in Greater Chicago. One February 9, 2016 the Blue Island City Council voted to adopt a new redistricting plan that includes three majority black wards and one majority Latino ward (out of a total of seven wards). This is an increase of one Latino and one black majority ward, and means that people of color will be able to elect their candidates of choice to a majority of the City Council in the coming years.
The vote to adopt a new plan came after months of public hearings that were instituted in response to a pre-litigation letter sent by the Chicago Lawyers' Committee with the expert assistance of Jeff Cummings and Judd Miner of Miner, Barnhill & Galland and Jorge Sanchez of MALDEF. The Chicago Lawyers' Committee worked with local activists from CASA Blue Island and the NAACP Far South Suburban Branch to bring dozens of community members to hearings to testify about what they want their community's democracy to look like.
In April, 2015, after years of research, we released The Color of Representation. It is the first comprehensive report on the representation of people of color in Illinois at the level of cities, counties, and school boards. Local governments affect the practices of the police, the distribution of public resources, and the way that the schools educate the next generation of leaders. We identified 38 places that have elected officials that don't reflect the racial diversity of the community.
We are now working with some of the 38 target communities to develop a litigation strategy to help them improve minority representation.
Are you are interested in learning more? Would you like us to come and present the report in your community? Do you think your local jurisdiction may be in violation of the Voting Rights Act?