The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Elaine E. Bucklo
Like a periodic comet, once every ten years this Court sees a challenge to the redistricting of Illinois's state legislative districts. The comet is back before us in the form of an Amended Complaint brought by a mix of citizen-voters, Republican state legislators, and interested parties who claim, for one reason or another, that the redistricting plan recently passed by the Illinois Legislature runs afoul of various state and federal laws. The Defendants -- the Illinois State Board of Elections and its members -- have now filed a motion to dismiss [DE 28] which, for the reasons stated below, will be granted in part and denied in part.
The federal Census occurs once every ten years, which provides states with new population data and an opportunity to redraw their legislative districts. In Illinois, the state Constitution provides that "in the year following each Federal decennial census year, the General Assembly by law shall redistrict the Legislative and the Representative Districts." Ill. Const., art. IV, § 3(b). Illinois has 59 Legislative (or "Senate") districts and 118 Representative (or "House") districts; each Senate district is composed of two House districts.
Illinois's 2011 redistricting process occurred throughout the spring and summer of this year. The Illinois Senate and House each formed redistricting committees. Those committees held public hearings throughout the state during March, April, and May. Plans for the new districts were proposed and amended throughout late May, and on June 3, 2011 the General Assembly Redistricting Act of 2011 was signed into law, which cemented the new map of 118 House districts and 59 Senate districts.
Plaintiffs Christine Radogno, Thomas Cross, Adam Brown, Veronica Vera, Chloe Moore, Joe Trevino, and Angel Garcia filed their complaint on July 20, 2011, and then filed an amended complaint on August 10, 2011. The Amended Complaint adds two more plaintiffs -- Elidia Mares and Edwin Tolentino -- and challenges the redistricting map in eight counts that raise, variously, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011, and the Illinois Constitution. The Illinois Republican Party was granted leave to intervene as a plaintiff in the case on August 20, 2011, and it has adopted the Amended Complaint as its own.
The Defendants raise a variety of arguments in favor of dismissal for each of the eight counts in the Amended Complaint. Simplifying things somewhat, Plaintiffs agree that the Illinois State Board of Elections should be dismissed as a defendant from Counts 3 through 8 and that Counts 7 and 8 should be dismissed in their entirety. So Defendants' motion will be granted as to that Defendant and those counts without further discussion. We will consider the remaining six counts in detail below.
The first two counts of the Amended Complaint allege that some of the House districts dilute the voting power of African-Americans (Count 1) and Latinos (Count 2), in violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Count 1 focuses on House districts 7 and 114; Count 2 focuses on House districts 1, 2, 21, 22, 23, 60, 77 and 83, but also states that it is "not limited to" these districts. [DE 21 at 18.]
Section 2 violations exist when minority plaintiffs prove that they have been denied an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to select candidates of their choice in a particular representative district. 42 U.S.C. 1973(b). The Supreme Court in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986) established a three-prong framework for analyzing Section 2 claims:
Plaintiffs must show three threshold conditions: first, the minority group "is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district"; second, the minority group is "politically cohesive"; and third, the majority "votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it . . . to defeat the minority's preferred candidate." Once plaintiffs establish these conditions, the court considers whether, "on the totality of circumstances," minorities have been denied an "equal opportunity" to "participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice." 42 U.S.C. § 1973(b).
Abrams v. Johnson, 521 U.S. 74, 91 (1997) (quoting Gingles) (ellipsis in original; internal citations omitted).
The first thing to note about Section 2 claims is that they are district-specific, which means, among other things, that for plaintiffs to have standing to bring a claim in any given district they must be registered voters residing in that district. See United States v. Hays, 515 U.S. 737, 745 (1995) (as a matter of standing, plaintiffs stating race-based equal protection challenges to redistricting must be voters who actually reside in the districts they are challenging); Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124, 137 n. 17 (1971) (in electoral districting cases, the plaintiff must be a resident of the challenged district to have standing to sue). As Defendants rightly point out, with respect to districts 1, 22, 23, 77, 83, and 114, the Amended Complaint alleges that one of the Plaintiffs resides in the district, but it fails to make the additional allegation that the resident-plaintiff is also registered to vote in that district. Moreover, with respect to districts 2, 7, 21, and 60, the Amended Complaint does not identify any registered voter residing in the district. Therefore, Plaintiffs have not adequately alleged standing for any of the specifically identified districts that they seek to challenge. Plaintiffs now acknowledge this oversight and have proposed that they be given leave to file a Second Amended Complaint in order to insert the necessary allegations. That request will be granted.
There are, however, additional defects in Counts 1 and 2 that also need to be corrected if those counts are to go forward. First, while Plaintiffs have specifically pointed to some of the challenged districts, the Amended Complaint also states that the counts are "not limited to" these districts. Since Gingles claims are district-specific, this qualifier is unacceptable. Plaintiffs must specifically identify each district they are challenging and demonstrate that at least one of them has standing to challenge that district.
Moreover, Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently allege the third Gingles prong -- i.e., that in each of the challenged districts the majority "votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it . . . usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate." Gingles, 478 U.S. at 51. The closest they ever get to this prong is in Paragraph 106 of the Amended Complaint, where they allege that "racial bloc voting is pervasive in Illinois, both among majority and minority groups." [DE 21 at 15.] But this allegation is entirely too broad: it is not specific to any of the challenged districts, nor does it actually allege that the purported racial bloc voting is sufficient to defeat the minority's preferred candidate in each of those districts.
Plaintiffs counter by saying that fact-pleading of every element is not required in federal court. That's true, but "[e]ven notice pleading requires pleading the elements" of a claim, Stark Trading v. Falconbridge Ltd., 552 F.3d 568, 574 (7th Cir. 2009), and Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint doesn't come close to sufficiently pleading the third Gingles element. In fact, we are skeptical as to whether the Amended Complaint even sufficiently pleads the first Gingles element -- whether the minority group "is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district" -- for each challenged district. Gingles, 478 U.S. at 50. Plaintiffs only make the ...