The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baker, Chief Judge.
This is a class action in which the plaintiffs, the black citizens of
the United States
above the age of eighteen years who are residents of the City of
Springfield, Illinois, seek remedies for claimed violations of Section 2
of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended June 29, 1982.
Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that the structure of the government of
the City of Springfield, Illinois, results in a denial or abridgement of
the plaintiffs' right to vote on account of race or color. The plaintiffs
further assert that, based on the totality of the circumstances, the
political processes leading to nomination or election in the City of
Springfield, Illinois, are not equally open to participation by the
plaintiffs because the plaintiffs have less opportunity than other members
of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect
representatives of their choice. The individual plaintiffs representing
the class are Frank McNeil, William H. Washington, Sr., Rudolph V.
Davenport, Archie Lawrence, and Howard Veal, Sr. The defendants are the
City of Springfield, Illinois, and J. Michael Houston, Frank Madonia,
James Norris, Ossie Langfelder, and J. Patrick Ward, as Mayor and
Commissioners of the City of Springfield, Illinois. Each of the
individual defendants is white.
Jurisdiction is given to the court by 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1343(3) and
(4). There is no dispute as to jurisdiction.
The case was filed on April 2, 1985. After extensive discovery by the
parties and a series of hearings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 16, the case
concluded with eleven days of trial in December, 1986.
The issue presented for decision is: considering the totality of the
circumstances, do the plaintiffs have an equal opportunity to participate
in the political processes of the City of Springfield and to elect
candidates of their choice to the city commission?
The plaintiffs have brought suit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights
Act of 1965, as amended June 29, 1982, 42 U.S.C. § 1973. That Act, as
amended, reads as follows:
(a) No voting qualification or prerequisite to
voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be
imposed or applied by any State or political
subdivision in a manner which results in the denial or
abridgement of the right of any citizens of the United
States to vote on account of race or color, or in
contravention of the guarantees set forth in Section
4(f)(2), as provided in subsection (b).
(b) A violation of subsection (a) is established
if, based on the totality of circumstances, it is
shown that the political processes leading to
nomination or election in the State or political
subdivision are not equally open to participation by
members of a class of citizens protected by subsection
(a) in that its members have less opportunity than
other members of the electorate to participate in the
political process and to elect representatives of
their choice. The extent to which members of a
protected class have been elected to office in the
State or political subdivision is one circumstance
which may be considered: Provided, That nothing in
this section establishes a right to have members of a
protected class elected in numbers equal to their
proportion in the population.
To understand amended Section 2, the events leading up to its enactment
should be noted. As originally enacted, Section 2 was a restatement of
the Fifteenth Amendment and added little to the constitutional
protections of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. See S.Rep. No.
417, 97th Cong., 2d Sess. 19 (1982), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1982,
pp. 177, 196 (hereinafter S.Rep. No. 417). Vote dilution challenges were
generally made upon constitutional grounds. See White v. Regester,
412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973); City of Mobile v.
Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 100 S.Ct. 1490, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980). The case law,
in particular White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d
314 (1973) and Zimmer v. McKeithen, 485 F.2d 1297 (5th Cir. 1973), aff'd
sub. nom, East Carroll Parish School Board v. Marshall, 424 U.S. 636, 96
S.Ct. 1083, 47 L.Ed.2d 296 (1976) (per curiam), announced that the test
in a vote dilution case, whether brought on a statutory or constitutional
basis, was one of "results," looking at the totality of the
circumstances. Proof of discriminatory intent was not a prerequisite to a
finding that an election system was unlawful. The test changed, however,
when the Supreme Court, in City of Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 100
S.Ct. 1490, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980), held that proof of discriminatory
intent was a necessary element of a vote dilution claim. The impact of
Bolden was immediate. See S.Rep. No. 417, pp. 203-204.
Two years after the Bolden decision, Congress passed the amendments to
Section 2. In Thornburg v. Gingles, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 92
L.Ed.2d 25 (1986), four years later, the Supreme Court had its first
opportunity to interpret amended Section 2. In a case arising under
amended Section 2 not only are the observations of the Supreme Court in
Gingles pertinent, but also the observations of the three-judge district
court whose opinion was accepted and affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Gingles v. Edmisten, 590 F. Supp. 345 (E.D.N.C. 1984), aff'd sub. nom,
Thornburg v. Gingles, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 92 L.Ed.2d 25
The legislative history of the amendment to Section 2 clearly shows the
statute's purpose. First, the amendment was in direct response to Bolden
— the fundamental aim of the amendment was to eliminate intent to
discriminate as an element of a statutory vote dilution claim. The Senate
Judiciary Committee Report on the amendment states, "The amendment to the
language of Section 2 is designed to make clear that plaintiffs need not
prove a discriminatory purpose in the adoption or maintenance of the
challenged system of [sic] practice in order to establish a violation."
S.Rep. No. 417, p. 205.
Section 2, as amended, adopted a results test which, irrespective of
intent, requires assessment of the totality of the circumstances of the
electoral process and a determination of whether that process resulted in
cancelling out or minimizing the voting strength of racial groups.
Gingles v. Edmisten, 590 F. Supp. at 353-54.
Second, the Congress intended that courts, in assessing the totality of
the circumstances, should look to the interaction of the challenged
mechanism with those historical social and political factors generally
suggested as probative of dilution. Id. at 354. The Senate Report
accompanying Section 2 lists those factors as:
1. the extent of any history of official
discrimination in the state or political subdivision
that touched the right of the members of the minority
group to register, to vote, or otherwise to
participate in the democratic process;
2. the extent to which voting in the elections
of the state or political subdivision is racially
3. the extent to which the state or political
subdivision has used unusually large election
districts, majority vote requirements, anti-single
shot provisions, or other voting practices or
procedures that may enhance the opportunity for
discrimination against the minority group;
4. if there is a candidate slating process,
whether the members of the minority group have
been denied access to that process;
5. the extent to which members of the minority
group in the state or political subdivision bear
the effects of discrimination in such areas as
education, employment and health, which hinder
their ability to participate effectively in the
6. whether political campaigns have been
characterized by overt or subtle racial appeals;
7. the extent to which members of the minority
group have been elected to public office in the
Additional factors that in some cases have had
probative value as part of plaintiffs' evidence
to establish a violation are:
whether there is a significant lack of
responsiveness on the part of elected officials to
the particularized needs of the members of the
whether the policy underlying the state or
political subdivision's use of such voting
qualification, prerequisite to voting, or standard,
practice or procedure is tenuous.
S.Rep. No. 417, pp. 206-207 (footnotes omitted).
Third, Congress intended that amended Section 2 should be interpreted
in conformity with the statutory constructions of White v. Regester,
412 U.S. 755, 93 S.Ct. 2332, 37 L.Ed.2d 314 (1973), and its progeny. In
that sense, the essence of racial vote dilution is this:
because of the interaction of substantial and
persistent racial polarization in voting patterns . .
. a racial minority with distinctive group interests
that are capable of aid or amelioration by government
is effectively denied the political power to further
those interests that numbers alone would presumptively
. . . give it in a voting constituency not racially
polarized in its voting behavior. . . . Vote dilution
in this sense can exist not withstanding the relative
absence of structural barriers to exercise of the
Gingles, 590 F. Supp. at 355.
Under this line of reasoning, vote dilution may result "from the
submergence in one multi-member district of black voter concentrations
sufficient, if not `fractured' or `submerged,' to constitute an effective
single-member district voting majority." Id.
Finally, as the Gingles trial court observed, Congress, in enacting
amended Section 2,
made a deliberate political judgment that the
time had come to apply the statute's remedial
measures to present conditions of racial vote
dilution. . . .
In making that political judgment, Congress
necessarily took into account and rejected as
unfounded, or assumed as outweighed, several risks to
fundamental political values that opponents of the
amendment urged in committee deliberations and floor
debate. Among these were the risk that the judicial
remedy might actually be at odds with the judgment of
significant elements in the racial minority; the risk
that creating "safe" black-majority single-member
districts would perpetuate racial ghettos and racial
polarization in voting behavior; the risk that
reliance upon the judicial remedy would supplant the
normal, more healthy processes of acquiring political
power by registration, voting and coalition building;
and the fundamental risk that the recognition of
"group voting rights" and the imposing of affirmative
obligation upon government to secure those rights by
race-conscious electoral mechanisms was alien to the
American political tradition.
For courts applying Section 2, the significance
of Congress's general rejection or assumption of
these risks as a matter of political judgment is
that they are not among the circumstances to be
considered in determining whether a challenged
electoral mechanism presently "results" in racial
vote dilution, either as a new or perpetuated
Id. at 356-57 (emphasis in original) (footnotes omitted).
Although Congress expanded Section 2 liability by eliminating the
intent requirement, it limited the circumstances under which a Section 2
violation may be proved in three ways: (1) electoral devices, such as
at-large elections, are not per se violations of the statute; the
totality of the circumstances must show unequal access to the political
process; (2) allegedly dilutive mechanisms and lack of proportional
representation in and of themselves do not establish a violation of
Section 2; and (3) racial bloc voting will not be assumed to exist; the
plaintiffs must prove it exists. Gingles, 106 S.Ct. at 2764.
In Gingles, the Supreme Court held that "[t]he essence of a Section 2
claim is that a certain electoral . . . structure interacts with the
social and historical conditions to cause an inequality in the
opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their preferred
representatives." Id. at 2764-65. The Supreme Court expressly noted that
such an inequality exists when at-large voting schemes operate to cancel
out the voting strength of racial minorities. Id.
To prove that an at-large system cancels out the voting strength of a
racial minority, the minority must establish the existence of three
conditions: (1) that it is sufficiently large and geographically compact
to constitute a majority in a single-member district; (2) that it is
politically cohesive; and (3) that the white majority voting bloc usually
defeats the minority's preferred candidate. Id. at 2766-67.
Without establishing the first condition, the minority group cannot
show that it has even the potential to elect the candidate of its choice
in the absence of the alleged discriminatory practice. Id. at 2766, n.
17. The final two requirements comprise the foundation for a finding that
racial vote polarization exists. Establishment of these two conditions
demonstrates that the black minority usually votes for one candidate, and
the white majority votes for and elects a different candidate. If this
racial vote polarization exists, then the minority voters have shown that
"submergence in a white multi-member district impedes its ability to
elect its chosen representatives." Id. at 2767.
It is important to remember that the term racially polarized voting
merely "refers to the situation where different races vote in blocs for
different candidates." Id. at 2773. The Supreme Court stressed that
"[r]acially polarized voting refers only to the existence of a
correlation between the race of voters and the selection of certain
candidates. . . . Defendants may not rebut that case with evidence of
causation [e.g., multivariate analysis] or intent." Id. at 2779.
III. FINDINGS OF FACT*fn1
A. THE NATURE AND HISTORY OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF
1. The City of Springfield is a municipality as that term is defined by
the Illinois Constitution of 1970, Article VII, § 1, and the Illinois
Municipal Code, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 24, ¶ 1-1-2 (1985). It is also a
home rule unit as defined by the Illinois Constitution of 1970, Article
VII, § 6(a).
2. The City of Springfield utilizes the commission form of government,
as that system is defined in Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 24, Article 4 (1985).
3. Springfield was incorporated, first as a town in 1832, and then as a
city in 1840.
4. In 1854, a consolidated charter provided for a mayor/aldermanic form
of government, with the aldermen elected from wards within the city. This
form of government continued until 1911. In 1911, the city's government
provided for 14 aldermen, two each elected from seven wards.
5. In 1911, Springfield adopted the commission form of government by
referendum, and that form of government continues to the present day.
6. Under the commission form of government, Springfield is governed by
a five-member city council consisting of a mayor and four commissioners,
elected at-large, with each council member also serving in an executive
capacity as the head of one of the five executive departments of city
7. The executive offices of the commissioners are as follows:
Commissioner of Accounts and Finances, Commissioner of Public Health and
Safety, Commissioner of Streets and Public Improvements, and Commissioner
of Public Property. The mayor serves as the Commissioner of Public
8. Prior to 1966, except for the mayor, the commissioners were not
elected to a particular executive department; the executive departments
were assigned at the first city council meeting after the election of
commissioners, as then provided in Ill. Rev.Stat. ch. 24, ¶ 4-5-3
10. The forms of municipal government available in Illinois by statute
The current form of government is established pursuant to Article 4 of
the Illinois Municipal Code. Section 4-3-2 requires that there shall be a
mayor and four commissioners elected at-large and expressly prohibits the
division of the city into wards.
Under Sections 3-4-7 and 3-4-9 of the Illinois Municipal Code, a
mayor/aldermanic system has a number of aldermen set by an arithmetic
formula derived from the city's population. For a city the size of
Springfield, there would be 10 wards with either 10 or 20 aldermen.
c. Strong Mayor-Aldermanic:
For purposes of districting in a strong mayor/aldermanic system,
Section 6-3-3 of the Municipal Code provides for 20 aldermen for a city
the size of Springfield with two aldermen representing each ward. Section
6-3-5 requires that the city be districted with one-half as many wards as
the total number of aldermen to which the city is entitled.
Under Sections 5-2-2 and 5-2-4, the council-manager system would have
the same districting requirement as the mayor-aldermanic system,
resulting in the division of Springfield into ten wards with one or two
aldermen per ward. Under Section 5-2-12, however, the aldermen can be
elected at-large, and a city the size of Springfield would have eight
Pursuant to the City's home rule power, the City, with voter approval,
may vary from the statutory forms of government and their requirements as
to council size.
11. Under the commission form, candidates for mayor and for
commissioner are nominated from the municipality at-large in a
non-partisan primary election, as provided in Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 24,
¶¶ 4-3-2, 4-3-5, 4-3-10, and 4-3-10.1 (1985).
12. Under the commission form of government there are no requirements
or limitations on the residences of the mayor and the commissioners; each
may reside anywhere within the city limits.
13. Pursuant to Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 24, ¶ 4-3-13 (1985), only the
names of the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes for
mayor in the primary election are placed on the ballot for mayor at the
general election; only the names of the two candidates with the highest
number of votes in the primary election for each of the commissioner
offices are placed on the ballot for each office in the general
14. Neither the Illinois Municipal Code nor the Illinois Election Code
contains any majority vote requirement for the election of mayor or
commissioner in a general election. The Illinois Election Code allows the
use of write-in votes for candidates whose names do not appear upon the
ballot. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, ¶¶ 16-3 and 18-9.1 (1985).
15. Single-shot voting, as that term is defined in Thornburg v.
Gingles, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 2760, n. 5, 92 L.Ed.2d 25 (1986),
for commissioners is precluded by the requirement that each commissioner
run for a specific office.
B. ELECTION RESULTS AND POLITICAL PARTY LEADERSHIP
1. No black has been elected to the Springfield City Council since
2. In the 1963 primary election for City Council in Springfield,
Illinois, there were 28 candidates. Nick Renfrow, a black candidate,
finished 21st out of 28 candidates. The parties are not aware of any
other black candidate who has run for election to the City Council of the
City of Springfield from 1963 until 1971.
3. In the February, 1971, primary for Commissioner of Accounts and
Finance, conducted at-large, the vote totals and race of the candidates
were as follows: (1)
James Dunham, white, 15,962 votes; (2) Gary Tumulty, white, 5,851 votes;
(3) N.F.N. Evans, white, 3,728 votes; (4) Charles Nelson, black, 1,807
4. In the February, 1971, primary for mayor, the vote totals and race
of the candidates were as follows: (1) William Telford, white, 11,988
votes; (2) Denney Kelley, white, 6,704 votes; (3) James Henneberry,
white, 4,983 votes; (4) Farries Morrison, black, 2,063 votes; (5) Fritz
O'Hara, white, 1,215 votes; (6) Skip Dunkirk, white, 501 votes.
5. In the February, 1983, primary for mayor, the vote total and the
race of the candidates were as follows: (1) J. Michael Houston, white,
12,760 votes; (2) James Dunham, white, 7,565 votes; (3) James Bolt,
white, 2,949 votes; (4) Ida Jackson, black, 1,945 votes; (5) Virgil
Gochanour, white, 184 votes.
6. In the April, 1985, special general election for Commissioner of
Accounts and Finances, James Norris, a white, defeated Willis Logan, a
black. No primary was necessary; Logan and Norris were the only two
7. In 1982, Carol Dew, a black woman, was the Republican candidate for
Sangamon County Clerk. She unsuccessfully opposed Gary Tumulty, a white
8. There were no black officers of either the Democratic or Republican
County Central Committee for Sangamon County prior to 1984.
9. The current officers of the Democratic County Central Committee for
Sangamon County and their race are as follows:
Chairman — Peter Dixon, white
Secretary — Genevieve Giganti, white
Treasurer — Nick Bussone, white
10. The current officers of the Republican County Central Committee for
Sangamon County and their race are as follows:
Chairman — Irv Smith, white
Secretary — Bruce Stratton, white