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CHICAGO (AP) — A lawsuit seeks to block new Illinois state legislative district maps saying Black residents of East St. Louis were unconstitionally split up into multiple House districts to help white Democratic incumbents in neighboring districts win reelection.

The federal lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of the East St. Louis Branch NAACP, the Illinois State Conference of the NAACP and the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations. It says race played a role in the redistricting of House District 114, which is currently represented by Rep. LaToya Greenwood, who is Black.

According to the lawsuit, one-fifth of the district's Black voting-age population was moved into two nearby districts under the new legislative maps that Democrats approved and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last month as part of redistricting. Thousands of white voters were added to District 114, which the plaintiffs say jeopardizes the prospects of a candidate preferred by Black voters. The district has been represented by a Black legislator for decades, the lawsuit states.

"It is unconscionable that in 2021 underhanded tactics are being used in a blatant effort to undermine and disenfranchise the Black electorate," said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

Democratic legislative leaders have defended the new maps, saying they align with the Voting Rights Act and reflect Illinois' increasing diversity. They didn't respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Illinois Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund also are challenging the new maps in court.

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