Decennial Redistricting Mooted Six-Year-Old Constitutional Challenge to Petition Requirement, Holds Seventh Circuit

In Gill v. Linnabary, No. 22-1653 (7th Cir. Mar. 22, 2023), the Seventh Circuit dismisses as moot a challenge first filed in 2016 that challenged the Illinois ballot access rules to run for Congress as an independent.

“The Illinois Election Code sets forth certain nomination requirements for independent candidates to appear on the general election ballot. An independent candidate must obtain the petition signatures of ‘not less than 5%’ of ‘the number of persons who voted at the next preceding regular election’ within a 90-day window.”

The plaintiff missed that threshold. “In 2016, David Gill ran as an independent candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois’s 13th Congressional District. He came up 2,000 signatures short of qualifying for the general election ballot. Gill then sued members of the Illinois State Board of Elections, claiming that portions of the Illinois Election Code violated the U.S. Constitution.”

His case was first dismissed, then reinstated on appeal. Gill v. Scholz, 962 F.3d 360 (7th Cir. 2020). But on remand, while motions for summary judgment were pending, “the 2020 decennial census resulted in Illinois enacting a new congressional map. This redistricting substantially altered the boundaries of the 13th Congressional District.” The district court nevertheless ruled on the motions and granted summary judgment to the state.

On appeal, the state argued that the redistricting mooted the challenge to the ballot access rules. The Seventh Circuit agrees and dismisses the suit. It rejects the plaintiff’s argument that this case falls within the “capable of repetition yet evading review” exception to mootness.

“Gill brings an as-applied challenge to these Illinois election provisions for a
district that, due to the 2020 redistricting, no longer exists. The district’s characteristics have changed due to redistricting . . . . [And t]he specific geography of the 13th District is important to the fact-based evaluation of Gill’s claim . . . . The district appears smaller. Its
shape and the population centers within it have changed considerably. The district no longer includes certain metropolitan areas and contains new ones. In 2016, the district included the cities of Decatur, Urbana, and Champaign, while stretching north to cover portions of the cities of Springfield, Bloomington, and Normal. Now the district no longer runs north to Normal and Bloomington, and it contains only a portion of Decatur. Instead, it runs further south to include East St. Louis and most of its densely populated metro region.”

“As a result of these changes to the district’s boundary lines, federal courts can no longer provide him any effectual relief. Any declaration as to the constitutionality of the challenged provisions would speak to a district that no longer exists. And any injunctive relief would keep the Board from enforcing the challenged provisions in a district that no longer exists.” As a result, the as-applied challenge is moot and the panle orders the case dismissed.

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