The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Harrison
Docket Nos. 92701, 92702, 92703, 92704, 92705, 92706, 92707, 92708 cons.-Agenda 29-November 2001.
In Cole-Randazzo v. Ryan, No. 92443 (November 28, 2001), our court considered and rejected a challenge to the validity of the redistricting plan approved by the Illinois Legislative Redistricting Commission and filed with the Secretary of State following the federal decennial census conducted in the year 2000. During the pendency of Cole-Randazzo, 13 additional cases were filed challenging the same redistricting plan. Five of those case were voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs shortly after they filed their briefs. The remaining eight cases are the subject of the proceedings before us today.
As with Cole-Randazzo, each of the eight new cases invokes this court's original jurisdiction under article IV, section 3, of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §3). Plaintiffs are various registered Illinois voters, some of whom are incumbent members of the Illinois General Assembly. *fn1 Named as defendants are the Attorney General of Illinois; the Illinois State Board of Elections, the Board's executive director and its members; and the Illinois Legislative Redistricting Commission (the Commission) and its members.
The actions were commenced when plaintiffs filed motions for leave to file their complaints in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 382 (155 Ill. 2d R. 382). We granted those motions, established a briefing schedule, and consolidated the actions for disposition. We also permitted John Tully, a registered voter, and Emil Jones, Jr., the Minority Leader of the Illinois Senate, to intervene as additional defendants. No oral argument was entertained.
All eight of the new cases were prepared by a related group of lawyers and seek the same relief: a declaration that certain of the representative (House) districts contained in the new redistricting plan are invalid and an order adopting, in their place, modified district boundaries as proposed by the plaintiffs. The cases differ only in the particular districts each attacks. Cause No. 92701 challenges the boundaries established by the Commission for Representative Districts 51, 52, 53, 54, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63 and 64. Cause No. 92702 takes issue with the boundaries for the 99th and 100th Representative Districts. The 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 57th, 65th and 66th Representative Districts are the subject of cause No. 92703. Cause No. 92704 attacks the 75th, 79th and 86th Representative Districts, while the 50th, 83rd, 84th, and 96th Representative Districts are the subject of cause No. 92705. Cause No. 92706 seeks to invalidate the boundaries for Representative Districts 113, 114, 115, and 116. The 103rd, 104th, and 105th Representative Districts are contested in cause No. 92707. Cause No. 92708 pertains to the boundaries for Representative Districts 27, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36, 37 and 38.
Representative Districts 99 and 100 cover the area in and around Springfield. Representative Districts 103 through 105 include the City of Champaign and nearby areas. Representative Districts 113 through 116 are located in southern Illinois, including portions of the St. Louis metropolitan area. The 35 other districts are all situated in Cook County and the counties near Cook.
Some of the districts challenged in the foregoing actions, including Representative Districts 15, 18, 35, 36, 75, 99, 100, 113 and 114, were also singled out for scrutiny by the original and intervening plaintiffs in Cole-Randazzo v. Ryan, No. 92443 (November 28, 2001). The balance, though not specifically identified by the Cole-Randazzo plaintiffs, were implicated in that case to the extent that the plaintiffs there attacked the new redistricting plan as a whole.
The plaintiffs in the cases before us today make no claim that the process employed by the Commission in formulating the new redistricting plan was in any way improper. No procedural irregularities are cited. No assertion is made that the Commission failed to consider relevant evidence or took into account evidence it should not have considered. As in Cole-Randazzo, the sole issue is whether the particular districts challenged by plaintiffs comport with the compactness requirement set forth in our state's constitution.
We undertake our consideration of plaintiffs' claim mindful that under the Illinois Constitution of 1970, establishing boundaries for legislative and representative districts is a legislative function, not a judicial one. The duty to redistrict legislative and representative districts is expressly vested in the General Assembly. It does not become a judicial function merely because the members of the General Assembly are unwilling or unable to enact a new map within the time prescribed by law. When that occurs, as it did in the matter before us, establishing new district boundaries becomes the responsibility of the Commission, not this court. Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §3(b).
Where the Commission subsequently approves and files a redistricting plan, as it did here, the plan is presumed to be valid and must be given the force and effect of law. Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §3(b). In that respect, redistricting plans are directly analogous to statutory enactments, which are also cloaked with the presumption of validity. The presumption of validity means that courts must uphold a statute's constitutionality whenever reasonably possible. Correspondingly, a party challenging the statute's constitutionality bears the burden of clearly establishing the law's constitutional infirmity. People v. Sanders, 182 Ill. 2d 524, 528-29 (1998). So it is with a duly approved and filed redistricting plan. The proponents of the redistricting plan before us today therefore have no obligation to prove to our court that the districts formulated under the plan pass constitutional muster. Rather, the burden is on plaintiffs, who are challenging the plan, to clearly establish that the map is not constitutional.
Where, as here, challengers to a redistricting plan allege that districts formulated by the Commission fail to meet our constitution's compactness requirement, the applicable burden of proof requires those challengers to establish that the plan is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Cole-Randazzo, slip op. at 4. Under Illinois law, a decision is not against the manifest weight of the evidence unless the opposite conclusion is clearly evident. That other conclusions might be reasonable is of no consequence. If there is evidence to support the decision, it should not be disturbed. See, e.g., Abrahamson v. Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, 153 Ill. 2d 76, 88 (1992).
The redistricting plan before us today was the product of a series of meetings and public hearings held in September of 2001, following the selection of a ninth Commission member pursuant to the provisions of our state's constitution. See Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §3(b). *fn2 During those proceedings, the Commission considered various plans. It heard testimony and took other evidence regarding the plans' strengths and weaknesses. Expert witnesses, community groups, and others were permitted to present their views. Among those whose voices were heard were the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund, the African-American Working Group on Reapportionment (which included the Chicago Urban League and the NAACP), the Independent Voters of Illinois/Independent Precinct Organizations, the Midwest Community Conference, and the Asian-American Redistricting Coalition. A voluminous record was created.
In its final form, the plan ultimately adopted and filed by the Commission is not discernibly different, in terms of compactness, from the plan approved by this court in People ex rel. Burris v. Ryan, 147 Ill. 2d 270, 296 (1992), following the last federal decennial census. The similarity of compactness was confirmed by quantitative analysis. Cole-Randazzo, slip op. at 3. While some of the districts are certainly less compact than others, we pointed out in Cole-Randazzo, slip op. at 3, that the same was true of districts drawn ...