City Hall

Chicago City Hall (Tribune illustration)

A group challenging the remap of Chicago’s new ward boundaries lost its appeal in federal court on Wednesday.

The League of Women Voters of Chicago filed a lawsuit in April 2013 alleging the city’s new map was unconstitutional because it had been designed to protect most of the current aldermen over ensuring equal and full representation of individuals, minorities and neighborhoods.

The lawsuit also alleged that City Council committee chairmen had improperly implemented the new 2015 map before voters had a chance to elect aldermen from the new boundaries.

A federal judge rejected both arguments last August, and on Wednesday the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.

The new ward maps had a fluctuation of 8.7 percent in population from the largest ward to the smallest, and the lawsuit alleged that disparity violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution that requires officials from voting districts to represent substantially equal populations.

But the appeals court pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that had determined a fluctuation of 10 percent as the threshold for a violation of the clause.

In an attempt to overcome that precedent, the lawsuit argued the remap targeted independent aldermen, but the appeals court ruled that drawing new legislative districts is political in nature and “as in any election or redistricting scheme, there are bound to be winners and losers.” The court also determined that the lawsuit did not allege that the map targeted a specific group of voters and that the voting rights of minorities were upheld.

The appeals court also agreed with the lower court that the League of Women Voters had not proven that a “common, unwritten practice” had been put in place by the city “with the force of law” to implement the new boundaries early. The League of Women Voters’ reference to some aldermen having correspondence related to their future wards was “a far reach” to prove such a citywide policy had been implemented, the court wrote in its opinion.

Sean Morales-Doyle, an attorney representing the League of Women Voters in the case, did not say whether he would pursue the litigation further. “We are disappointed in the court’s ruling,” he said.

“We will be carefully reviewing the opinion.”

bruthhart@tribune.com
Twitter @BillRuthhart