Illinois General Assembly - Full Text of HB2917
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Full Text of HB2917  100th General Assembly




State of Illinois
2017 and 2018


Introduced , by Rep. Mike Fortner


New Act

    Creates the Local Government Voting Rights Act. Provides that neither an at-large method of election nor a district-based method of election may be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected group or class to elect candidates of its choice as a result of the dilution or the abridgment of the rights of voters who are members of a protected group or class. Sets forth procedures and evidentiary burdens for proving a violation of the Act. Sets forth certain remedies for violations of the Act and provisions concerning standing and notice. Allows the recovery of attorney's fees. Contains severability provisions.

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1    AN ACT concerning elections.
2    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,
3represented in the General Assembly:
4    Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Local
5Government Voting Rights Act.
6    Section 5. Findings and policy. The General Assembly finds
7and hereby declares that the purpose of this Act is to address
8ongoing vote dilution and discrimination in voting as matters
9of statewide concern, in order to enforce the fundamental
10rights guaranteed by Sections 1 and 2 of Article I and Sections
111 and 8 of Article III of the Illinois Constitution.
12    Section 10. Definitions. As used in this Act:
13    "At-large method of election" means any of the following
14methods of electing members to the governing body of a
15political subdivision:
16        (1) one in which the voters of the entire jurisdiction
17    elect candidates to the governing body, including, but not
18    limited to, alternative vote arrangements, transferable
19    voting, ranked-choice voting, or preferential voting;
20        (2) one in which candidates are required to reside
21    within particular areas of the jurisdiction and the voters
22    of the entire jurisdiction elect candidates to the



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1    governing body; or
2        (3) one which combines at-large elections with a
3    district-based method of election.
4    "District-based method of election" means a method of
5electing members to the governing body of a political
6subdivision in which the candidate must reside within an
7election district that is a divisible part of the political
8subdivision and is elected only by voters residing within that
9election district.
10    "Political subdivision" means a geographic area of
11representation created for the provision of government
12services, including, but not limited to a county, township,
13city, municipality, school district, community college
14district, special district, or other district organized
15pursuant to State law.
16    "Protected group" and "protected class" under this Act
17shall mean a group or class of voters who are members of a
18race, color, or language minority group, as referenced and
19defined in the federal Voting Rights Act (52 U.S.C. 10301 et
21    "Racially-polarized voting" means voting in which there is
22a difference, as defined in case law regarding enforcement of
23the federal Voting Rights Act (52 U.S.C. 10301 et seq.), in the
24choice of candidates or other electoral choices that are
25preferred by voters in a protected class, and in the choice of
26candidates and electoral choices that are preferred by voters



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1in the rest of the electorate. The methodologies for estimating
2group voting behavior as approved in applicable federal cases
3to enforce the federal Voting Rights Act to establish
4racially-polarized voting, as well as other valid
5methodologies admissible pursuant to Illinois Rule of Evidence
6702, may be used for purposes of this Section to prove that
7elections are characterized by racially-polarized voting.
8    Section 15. Vote dilution and discrimination. Neither an
9at-large method of election nor a district-based method of
10election may be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the
11ability of a protected group or class to elect candidates of
12its choice as a result of the dilution or the abridgment of the
13rights of voters who are members of a protected group or class.
14    Section 20. Violations.
15    (a) To establish a violation of Section 15 of this Act, a
16plaintiff or plaintiffs must show that racially-polarized
17voting occurs in elections for members of the governing body of
18the political subdivision or in elections incorporating other
19electoral choices by the voters of the political subdivision.
20    (b) The occurrence of racially-polarized voting shall be
21determined from examining results of elections in which at
22least one candidate is a member of the protected class or the
23preferred candidate of the protected class involved in the
24challenge, or elections involving ballot measures or other



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1electoral choices. In multi-seat at-large election districts,
2where the number of candidates who are members of the protected
3class or preferred candidates of the protected class involved
4in the challenge is fewer than the number of seats available,
5the relative group-wide support received by candidates from
6members of the protected class shall be the basis for the
7racial polarization analysis. Elections conducted prior to the
8filing of an action for a violation of Section 15 of this Act
9are more probative to establish the existence of
10racially-polarized voting than elections conducted after the
11filing of the action.
12    (c) Other factors such as the history of discrimination,
13the use of electoral devices or other voting practices or
14procedures that may enhance the dilutive effects of at-large
15elections, denial of access to those processes determining
16which groups of candidates will receive financial or other
17support in a given election, the extent to which members of a
18protected class bear the effects of past discrimination in
19areas such as education, employment, and health, which hinder
20their ability to participate effectively in the political
21process, and the use of overt or subtle racial appeals in
22political campaigns are probative, but not necessary, factors
23to establish a violation of Section 15 of this Act.
24    (d) The fact that members of a protected class are not
25geographically compact or concentrated shall not preclude a
26finding of racially-polarized voting, or a violation of Section



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115 of this Act, but may be a factor in determining an
2appropriate remedy.
3    (e) Proof of intent on the part of the voters or elected
4officials to discriminate against a protected class is not
6    (f) The fact that a single-member district-based method of
7election election was imposed on the political subdivision as a
8result of a prior action under this Act shall not be a defense
9to a violation of Section 15 of this Act, except that if a
10court orders a political subdivision to adopt, and subsequently
11approves, a single-member district-based method of election as
12a result of an action under this Act, there shall be a
13rebuttable presumption that the election system does not
14violate Section 15 of this Act. The presumption shall apply
15only to the exact single-member district-based method of
16election that was approved by the court and shall not apply if
17the boundaries of the single-member districts of the political
18subdivision are subsequently adjusted for any reason.
19    Section 25. Standing. Any eligible voter who is a member of
20a protected class and who resides in a political subdivision
21where a violation of Section 15 of this Act is alleged may file
22an action for a violation of that Section in the circuit court
23of any county in which the political subdivision is located.
24    Section 30. Notice. Prior to filing an action pursuant to



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1this Act, a prospective plaintiff shall first notify the
2political subdivision's principal executive officer, in
3writing, that the prospective plaintiff intends to challenge
4the political subdivision's electoral system under this Act.
5    Section 35. Remedies.
6    (a) Upon a determination that there is a violation of
7Section 15 of this Act, the circuit court shall implement
8appropriate remedies that are tailored to remedy the violation,
9based on submissions by the plaintiff or plaintiffs.
10    (b) Notwithstanding any State law to the contrary, upon
11finding a violation of Section 15 of this Act, the court may
12order the political subdivision to adopt, alter, or repeal its
13forms of government or manner of electing the members of its
14governing body in order to remedy the violation.
15    (c) To the extent possible, the court shall give preference
16to the implementation of an effective district-based method of
17election that provides the protected class the opportunity to
18elect candidates of its choice from single member districts.
19Single-member districts under this subsection (c) shall be
20drawn in a manner consistent with the following:
21        (1) district boundaries may not be drawn or maintained
22    in a manner that denies an equal opportunity of a protected
23    class to elect candidates of its choice or an equal
24    opportunity to influence the outcome of an election;
25        (2) each district shall be as nearly equal in



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1    population as practicable to each and every other such
2    district comprising the political subdivision;
3        (3) each district shall consist of a geographically
4    contiguous area; and
5        (4) each district shall be reasonably compact.
6    (d) If the implementation of effective single-member
7districts under subsection (c) of this Section is not possible
8or will not provide an appropriate remedy, the court may order
9additional remedies, including, but not limited to, any of the
11        (1) implementing an alternative election system, such
12    as cumulative voting and ranked-choice voting;
13        (2) approving a single-member district-based method of
14    election that provides the protected class the opportunity
15    to join in a coalition of 2 or more protected classes to
16    elect candidates of their choice if there is demonstrated
17    political cohesion among the protected classes;
18        (3) incrementally increasing the size of the governing
19    body;
20        (4) requiring elections of the governing body to be
21    held on the same day as a statewide election in accordance
22    with Article 2A of the Election Code; or
23        (5) issuing an injunction to delay an election.
24    Section 40. Fees.
25    (a) In any action to enforce Section 15 of this Act, the



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1circuit court shall allow the prevailing party to collect from
2the defendant reasonable attorney's fees and litigation
3expenses including, but not limited to, expert witness fees and
4expenses as part of the costs. A prevailing defendant party
5shall not recover any costs or attorney's fees, unless the
6court finds the action to be frivolous, unreasonable, or
8    (b) If, in response to a notice from a prospective
9plaintiff or plaintiffs as described in Section 30 of this Act,
10a political subdivision changes its method of election in a
11manner that might have been ordered had litigation been filed,
12or adopts an ordinance or resolution establishing a specific
13plan to effect the transition and an estimated time frame for
14doing so, then the prospective plaintiff or plaintiffs who sent
15the notice may demand reimbursement for the fees and costs to
16support the notice. Within 45 days of receiving the demand for
17reimbursement, the political subdivision shall reimburse the
18prospective plaintiff or plaintiffs for reasonable costs
20    Section 45. Conflict of Laws. Nothing in this Act shall be
21construed, applied, or implemented in a way that conflicts with
22the United States Constitution, the federal Voting Rights Act
23(52 U.S.C. 10301 et seq.), or the Illinois Constitution.
24    Section 97. Severability. The provisions of this Act are



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1severable under Section 1.31 of the Statute on Statutes.