Radogno et al v. IL State Board of Elections et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order Signed by Honorable Judges Elaine E. Bucklo, Diane S. Sykes and Philip P. Simon on 11/22/2011:Mailed notice(mpj, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
CHRISTINE RADOGNO, in her official capacity
as Minority Leader of the Illinois Senate,
THOMAS CROSS, in his official capacity as
Minority Leader of the Illinois House of
Representatives, ADAM BROWN, in his official
capacity as a state representative from the 101st
Representative District and individually as a
registered voter, VERONICA VERA, CHLOE
MOORE, JOE TREVINO, ANGEL GARCIA,
ELIDIA MARES, EDWIN TOLENTINO, and
THE ILLINOIS REPUBLICAN PARTY,
ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS,
RUPERT BORGSMILLER, Executive Director of )
the Illinois State Board of Elections, HAROLD D. )
BYERS, BRYAN A. SCHNEIDER, BETTY J.
COFFRIN, ERNEST C. GOWEN, WILLIAM F. )
McGUFFAGE, JUDITH C. RICE, CHARLES W. )
SCHOLZ, JESSE R. SMART, all named in
their official capacities as members of the Illinois )
State Board of Elections, AFRICAN
AMERICANS FOR LEGISLATIVE
REDISTRICTING, and LATINO COALITION
FOR FAIR REPRESENTATION,
Judge Elaine E. Bucklo
Judge Diane S. Sykes
Judge Philip P. Simon
OPINION AND ORDER
This opinion and order addresses the second round of motion-to-dismiss litigation in the
ongoing challenge to the Illinois legislative redistricting plan enacted after the 2010 federal
Census. The Plaintiffs, a mix of voters, Republican state legislators, and interested parties, filed a
complaint alleging that the redistricting plan violates federal and state law. They later amended
their complaint, and on October 21, 2011, we issued an order granting in part and denying in part
the Defendants’ motion to dismiss the amended complaint. We granted leave to replead some of
the dismissed claims.
The Plaintiffs accepted our invitation and filed a Second Amended Complaint. The
Defendants again moved to dismiss. The issue now before us is the sufficiency of the Plaintiffs’
restated political gerrymandering claims alleged in Counts 2, 3, and 4 of the Second Amended
Complaint. In our previous order we gave the Plaintiffs a second opportunity to (1) identify a
constitutionally appropriate and administrable standard by which to adjudicate political
gerrymandering claims; and (2) make allegations sufficient to raise a plausible inference that the
redistricting plan violates the standard. On November 16, 2011, we issued a minute order
granting the Defendants’ motion and dismissing Counts 2, 3, and 4 of the Second Amended
Complaint with prejudice. This opinion explains why the Plaintiffs’ second effort falls short.
Our previous order discussed the background allegations in this case, so we will not
rehearse them in great detail here. Following the 2010 federal Census, the Illinois General
Assembly, pursuant to the state constitution, drew new district lines for its 59 Legislative (or
“Senate”) districts and 118 Representative (or “House” district). After a series of public
hearings, which the Plaintiffs contend were a sham, the new redistricting plan was signed into
law on June 3, 2011.
The Plaintiffs in this case include the minority leaders of the two houses of the Illinois
General Assembly, several voters, and the Illinois Republican Party, which was granted leave to
intervene as a plaintiff on August 20, 2011. The first Amended Complaint named the Illinois
State Board of Elections and its individual members as defendants, and alleged violations of the
federal Voting Rights Act, political gerrymandering claims under the First and Fourteenth
Amendments, racial gerrymandering claims, and various state-law claims.
The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which we granted in part and denied in part in
our October 21 order. On sovereign immunity grounds, we dismissed the state-law claims
entirely and dismissed all claims against the Board itself except for those arising under the
Voting Rights Act. We dismissed the Voting Rights Act claims on various grounds, but granted
leave to replead. We dismissed the state-wide racial gerrymandering claim, but allowed the
racial gerrymandering claim specific to District 96 to go forward. And most importantly for
present purposes, we dismissed with prejudice the political gerrymandering claim premised on
the First Amendment, but dismissed with leave to replead the political gerrymandering claim
arising under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.1 Regarding the latter,
we specifically explained that we were giving the Plaintiffs a chance to articulate a “workable
test” or a “reliable standard” for judging partisan gerrymanders and to “make allegations
sufficient to give rise to a plausible inference that the redistricting plan violates the standard.”
[DE 59 at 10-11.] The Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint, which includes three
counts alleging political gerrymandering violations. Count 2 is styled as a traditional partisan
gerrymandering claim [DE 65 at 21-24], and Counts 3 and 4 allege that the redistricting plan
violates the Equal Protection Clause by discriminating against Republican voters on the basis of
their political beliefs and affiliations [DE 65 at 24-26].
We also noted that Plaintiffs Christine Radogno and Thomas Cross, respectively the Minority
Leaders of the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives, have standing only to raise the political
gerrymandering claims, and not any of the others.
As we indicated in our previous order, the Supreme Court’s caselaw on political
gerrymandering offers limited guidance, as the Court has not coalesced around a position
regarding the legal standard by which they are to be judged. The Court first declared partisan
gerrymandering claims justiciable in Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109, 113 (1986), but there
was no majority opinion regarding the proper standard for adjudicating these claims. In Vieth v.
Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004), a four-Justice plurality concluded that Bandemer should be
overruled, and that partisan gerrymandering claims are nonjusticiable. Id. at 305-06 (plurality
opinion). Justice Kennedy provided the fifth vote to affirm the dismissal of the claim in Vieth; he
agreed that neither Bandemer nor the plaintiffs or the dissenting Justices in Vieth had articulated
an appropriate standard, but he declined to foreclose all political gerrymandering claims on the
chance that a proper standard might emerge in the future. Id. at 306 (Kennedy, J., concurring in
The Court addressed partisan gerrymandering once more in League of United Latin
American Citizens (LULAC) v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399 (2006), but did little to clarify the issue for
lower courts and litigants. The Court declined to revisit the question of justiciability in LULAC.
Justice Kennedy, announcing the judgment of the Court, simply noted that the plaintiffs’ claims
must be dismissed because of “the absence of any workable test for judging partisan
gerrymanders.” Id. at 420.
As we explained in our previous order, the point that we draw from these cases is that
political gerrymandering claims remain justiciable in principle but are currently “unsolvable”
based on the absence of any workable standard for addressing them. The crucial theoretical
problem is that partisanship will always play some role in the redistricting process. As a matter
of fact, the use of partisan considerations is inevitable; as a matter of law, the practice is
constitutionally acceptable. See Vieth, 541 U.S. at 286-88 (plurality opinion); id. at 313
(Kennedy, J., concurring in the judgment). The relevant question is not whether a partisan
gerrymander has occurred, but whether it is so excessive or burdensome as to rise to the level of
an actionable equal-protection violation. How much is too much, and why?
So as things currently stand, minority-party plaintiffs may continue to bring political
gerrymandering claims, but they face the Sisyphean task of articulating a standard by which
judges may reliably and objectively sort the “routine” use of partisanship in redrawing district
lines from that which is excessive to the point of violating the Equal Protection Clause. To
illustrate concretely the enormity of this challenge, it is useful to identify the standards that a
majority of the Supreme Court has rejected:
A showing of intent to discriminate, plus denial of a political group’s chance to influence the
political process as a whole (offered by the plurality in Bandemer, 478 U.S. at 132-22
(plurality opinion), rejected by a majority2 in Vieth, 541 U.S. at 281-82 (plurality opinion)).
Whether boundaries were drawn for partisan ends to the exclusion of fair, neutral factors
(offered by Justice Powell’s concurrence in Bandemer, 478 U.S. at 161, 173 (Powell, J.,
concurring in part and dissenting in part), rejected by a majority in Vieth, 541 U.S. at 290-91
Although Justice Kennedy did not join the Vieth plurality, he did concur in the conclusion that
no reliable standard had been identified and that the claim at issue should be dismissed. Vieth, 541 U.S. at
308 (Kennedy, J., concurring in the judgment). Accordingly, we think it appropriate to conclude that a
majority of the Justices found all the standards discussed in the Vieth plurality insufficient, even if a
majority did not conclude that such claims were per se nonjusticiable.
Whether mapmakers acted with the “predominant intent” to achieve partisan advantage and
subordinated neutral criteria; for example, where the map “packs” and “cracks” the rival
party’s voters and thwarts its ability to translate a majority of votes into a majority of seats
(offered by the appellants in Vieth, id. at 284-90, rejected by a majority in Vieth, id.).
Whether, at a district-to-district level, a district’s lines are so irrational as to be understood
only as an effort to discriminate against a political minority (offered by Justice Stevens’s
dissent in Vieth, id. at 321-27 (Stevens, J., dissenting), rejected by a majority in Vieth, id. at
292-95 (plurality opinion)).
Application of a five-part test requiring a plaintiff to show (1) that he is a member of a
cohesive political group; (2) that the district of his residence paid little or no heed to
traditional districting principles; (3) that there were specific correlations between the
district’s deviations from traditional districting principles and the distribution of the
population of his group; (4) that a hypothetical district exists which includes the plaintiff’s
residence, remedies the “packing” or “cracking” of the plaintiff's group, and deviates less
from traditional districting principles; and (5) that the defendants acted intentionally to
manipulate the shape of the district in order to pack or crack his group (offered by Justice
Souter’s dissent in Vieth, id. at 347-51 (Souter, J., dissenting), rejected by a majority in
Vieth, id. at 295-98 (plurality opinion)).
Whether a statewide plan results in unjustified entrenchment, such that a party’s hold on
power is purely the result of partisan manipulation and not other factors (offered by Justice
Breyer’s dissent in Vieth, id. at 360-62 (Breyer, J., dissenting), rejected by a majority in
Vieth, id. at 298-301 (plurality opinion)).
Whether the sole intent of a redistricting plan is to pursue partisan advantage (offered by
appellants in LULAC, 548 U.S. at 416-20 (Kennedy, J., announcing the judgment of the
Court), effectively rejected by a majority3 in LULAC, id.).
In their Second Amended Complaint, the Plaintiffs have alleged a broad array of facts
that, if true, plausibly suggest that the redistricting plan was enacted in large part to give
Democrats a partisan advantage. But the challenge is to explain how these facts fit together to
violate an administrable and non-arbitrary standard for governing political gerrymandering
claims generally. “I know it when I see it,” Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 196 (1964)
(Stewart, J., concurring), will not do.
In their response to the motion to dismiss, the Plaintiffs combine several of their factual
allegations to arrive at a proposed standard. Abstracting away from the particulars of this case,
that standard says that political gerrymanders are unconstitutional when six requirements are
1. A plan is less compact than the one it replaces.
2. A plan splits more traditional political boundaries than the one it replaces.
3. Alternative plans are available that are more compact and split fewer traditional
4. The new districts violate state law redistricting standards to favor the majority party.
5. Minority-party incumbents are deprived of a substantially greater proportion of their
core constituencies than majority-party incumbents.
Although Justice Kennedy wrote only for himself in the section of the opinion discussing and
rejecting the appellants’ “sole motivation” theory, four other Justices effectively concurred in that
conclusion. LULAC, 548 U.S. at 492-93 (Roberts, C.J., concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in
part, dissenting in part); id. at 511-12 (Scalia, J., concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in
6. More than two-thirds of incumbent pairings pit minority-party incumbents against
The Plaintiffs have clearly taken to heart the thrust of the caselaw explaining that an
appropriate standard must be both objective and administrable using the traditional tools of
judicial adjudication; standards relying on vague notions of “unfairness” or “excessive burdens”
or a “totality of the circumstances” have been rejected as insufficient. They have identified
factors that are, for the most part, reasonably objective and measurable. The Defendants object
that there is too much ambiguity in how the factors should be measured (e.g., what test to use for
“compactness,” how to define “traditional political boundaries”), but these ambiguities are not so
great as to place the factors beyond the competency of the courts to adjudicate. For example,
courts routinely consider the “bizarre shape” of districts when considering racial gerrymandering
claims. See Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630, 644 (1993). Taking account of a district’s bizarre shape
is one way to measure its “compactness.”
The more fundamental problem, however, is that to the extent this six-factor “test” is
administrable, it is also essentially and fatally arbitrary. The test only works as a legal standard
if the factors are taken as requirements, all six of which are individually necessary and jointly
sufficient to make out a political gerrymandering claim. Otherwise, the standard simply dissolves
into the kind of multi-factor “totality of the circumstances” or “fairness” test that the Supreme
Court has firmly rejected. See Vieth, 541 U.S. at 295-98. And what accepted principles of equalprotection jurisprudence point to the conclusion that these six factors make out the appropriate
standard for adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims as a general matter? Why the
two-thirds requirement for incumbent pairings, as opposed to three-fifths or three-quarters? Why
the specific need to show a violation of state-law redistricting requirements? What if five of the
factors are met and even exceeded, but the sixth one barely falls short?
Maybe reasonable people could agree that where all six of these factors converge it looks
like “excessive” political gerrymandering has occurred. Perhaps this proposed “standard” marks
a prudent policy boundary. But it’s hard to see how this particular six-factor test is implied by
the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause, which as we have noted tolerates some degree
of partisanship in redistricting. If judicial adjudication of political gerrymandering were just a
matter of isolating a set of factors, even objective factors, that inhere in the redistricting context
and suggest that partisan considerations played a substantial role, courts would have solved this
problem long ago. The challenge is not just administrability; it is constitutional line-drawing.
The law requires an objective, measurable standard that admits of rational judicial resolution and
is a direct and non-arbitrary implication of accepted constitutional norms.
The Plaintiffs can hardly be faulted for failing to sail successfully between the Scylla of
administrability and the Charybdis of non-arbitrariness; no such ship has yet found this narrow
path. Because the Plaintiffs have not identified a workable standard for partisan gerrymanders,
Count 2 of the Second Amended Complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
Counts 3 and 4 of the Second Amended Complaint allege equal-protection violations that
the Plaintiffs insist are distinct from the political gerrymandering claim in Count 2. They allege
in these counts that the redistricting plan discriminates against Republican voters on the basis of
their political beliefs and affiliations, and that this “intentional and purposeful” (Count 3) and
“invidious and arbitrary” (Count 4) discrimination violates the Equal Protection Clause. But of
course, political gerrymandering claims themselves arise under the Equal Protection Clause, and
the action being challenged—redrawing legislative districts to favor one political party over
another—is the same in all three counts. The act of drawing district lines to favor the majority
party (i.e., “political gerrymandering”) is the act of discriminating against voters based on their
political beliefs. There is no meaningful distinction between “political gerrymandering” and
“drawing district lines so as to discriminate against certain voters based on their political
But even if a distinction between Count 2 and Counts 3 and 4 could be found, all of the
same problems in articulating an appropriate legal standard would still apply. At the risk of
repeating ourselves, it is clearly not the law that redistricting may take no account of
partisanship, so the challenge is to locate a standard that identifies unconstitutionally excessive
partisan discrimination. For all the reasons already discussed, the Plaintiffs have not proposed
such a standard, nor can we identify one.
Accordingly, the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint is
GRANTED. Counts 2, 3, and 4 of the Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint are DISMISSED
ENTERED: November 22, 2011.
s/ Elaine E. Bucklo
ELAINE E. BUCKLO, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
s/ Diane S. Sykes
DIANE S. SYKES, JUDGE
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
s/ Philip P. Simon
PHILIP P. SIMON, CHIEF JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA