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Between the Lines: GOP Lawsuit in Illinois Charges Latino Discrimination

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.

The decennial process of reapportionment gave South Carolina an extra seat. The new district is in the northeastern part of the state and is anchored in Horry County, which contains the city of Myrtle Beach. Its placement will move the 1st district, now represented by Rep. Tim Scott (R), south along the coast to Charleston and Beaufort counties in the southeastern part of the state.

Roll Call asked Scott whether having a new district and new constituents would mean he’d need to adjust his politics.

“I’m not a chameleon, so it’s very hard from me to change my stripes or colors,” Scott said. “At the end of the day, what you see is what you get: I’m a conservative, hopefully thoughtful, person.”

Scott won with 65 percent of the vote in 2010. Though the lines have changed substantially, the 1st remains a Republican district.

The new 7th district is likely to lean Republican. An estimated 56 percent of voters there would have voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election, according to numbers crunched by a Republican source.

The map also strengthens the Republican tilt of the districts held by GOP Reps. Joe Wilson and Mick Mulvaney, according to the source’s numbers. The majority-minority 6th district, represented by Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D), becomes more Democratic.

An earlier iteration of the map had shifted the ratio of Spartanburg County and Greenville County in the 4th district. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R), who represents the district, was unhappy with that development.

Gowdy is OK with the final map.

“We applaud the General Assembly for passing a map that preserves the successful partnership between Greenville and Spartanburg, and appreciate their diligent work throughout the process,” Gowdy spokesman Robert Hughes told Roll Call in a statement.

West Virginia Plan Draws McKinley, Moore Capito Together

A new redistricting proposal floated by a Democratic West Virginia state Senator would draw Republican Reps. David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito into the same district, the Charleston Daily Mail reported.

But the Democratic state House Majority Leader indicated to the newspaper that this was an unlikely outcome.

“We’ll certainly look at all plans, but this is something that has not been proposed in the House as of this date,” Brent Boggs told the paper.

McKinley chief of staff Andy Seré told Roll Call that he isn’t worried.

“This plan is clearly a partisan powerplay. But at the end of the day, cooler heads are going to prevail, and I think this is destined for the dustbin,” he said.

Independent Panel Under Investigation in Arizona

The state attorney general is investigating the state’s independent redistricting commission for possible violations of procurement and open-meeting laws.

Capitol Media Services reported Attorney General Tom Horne’s (R) investigation is centered on the commission’s selection of a map-drawing consultant, Strategic Telemetry, which worked for the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.

Questions about the process for approving the firm — the two Democrats and one independent on the five-member panel voted in its favor — were raised in reports by the Arizona Capitol Times.

State Sen. Frank Antenori (R) told Capitol Media Services that he has evidence that public documents used to rate the bidding consulting firms were destroyed.

Utah Tour Over, Lawmakers Await a Final Plan

The Utah Redistricting Committee, made up of members of the state Legislature, finished a statewide tour Tuesday and will now begin a month of negotiations before presenting a plan for new lines to the full Legislature in September, the Deseret News reported.

State Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) offered a new plan at the final public hearing that would keep all of Salt Lake City whole, while splitting up the state’s three largest counties: Salt Lake, Utah and Davis.

Previous plans included splitting up Salt Lake City into four parts divided among each of the state’s districts and making all of rural Utah one district. Utah is gaining a fourth district through reapportionment, and the GOP controls the redistricting process.

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