Illinois 4th District: Racial Gerrymandering & the Latin 'Earmuffs'

Illinois 4th District: Racial Gerrymandering & the Latin 'Earmuffs'

After the 2011 redistricting of the Illinois congressional map, two of the state’s districts were featured on Slate’s list for the 20 most gerrymandered in the country–Illinois’s fourth, and seventeenth districts. 

After redistricting, the seventeenth became more compact and rational. The fourth is now even crazier.

The fourth, known as the Latin “earmuffs,” for obvious reasons (look at it), ranks among the top five most gerrymandered with Roll Call and the National Journal as well.

The Illinois fourth was redrawn in the 1990’s to create the Midwest’s first Hispanic voting district. As a result, Congressman Luis Guitteriez, a democratic socialist, has been its representative ever since.

However, the 14th amendment requires that districts not be drawn based on race unless there is a compelling government interest.

While the claim is made often that the Voting Rights Act requires minority districts, the opposite is true. Districts based on race are subject to “strict scrutiny” and jurisdictions must show a history of racial discrimination that justifies the boundaries. Chris Cleveland, Vice Chairman of the Chicago GOP, told Breitbart News, “Courts have often accepted nonsense evidence of such discrimination.”

But given that recent elections show that an African-American can be elected President, twice, with large numbers of white voters behind him–or that a largely-white district in South Carolina can elect a black Tea Party representative, Tim Scott–does this so-called evidence that minorities can only be elected in racially gerrymandered districts hold up? Obviously not.

The drawing of the fourth district has received massive criticism over the years and has faced numerous lawsuits, some of which have made it all the way to U.S. Supreme Court.

Cleveland, who was an expert witness in the 7th Circuit case, King vs. The State Board of Elections (2005), says that “the practice of drawing districts based strictly on minority group populations, in order to influence the outcome of elections, is a violation of equal protection.

“Non-minority districts have elected minorities again and again and again. What matters is the quality of the candidate, not the color of the skin.”

The city of Chicago and Cook County, IL provide even more recent examples of minorities being elected regardless of their hyphenated-American status, and the racial make-up of their voting jurisdictions.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who is black, wins re-election year after year in a statewide race, and Anita Alverez was elected to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office without a “majority” Hispanic county populace.

In the fourth district of Illinois, racial gerrymandering also exposes the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party, which claims to be the party of “minority voters.”

Democrats who redrew the Illinois congressional map in 2011, left the super-majority Hispanic fourth district intact, reducing Hispanic influence elsewhere in order to roll back the Republican gains of the Tea Party tidal wave of 2010, when the GOPpicked up five congressional seats in long time Illinois Democrat strongholds.

The 2011 map thus solidified Guiterrez’s stranglehold on the fourth congressional district, which is stacked with a 75% Hispanic population, and successfully dismantled the districts Democrats lost to the GOP in 2010.

Image source: Will County Politics