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City Council Ends Ward Remap Hearings, But Alderpeople Are No Closer To An Agreement

City Council has until mid-May to work out a compromise, otherwise Chicago voters could be asked to choose the next ward map.

Goose Island and the Chicago skyline, as seen on Dec. 2, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — With no compromise in sight to redraw Chicago’s ward boundaries, some alderpeople are speculating whether they could sue to ensure their preferred map determines the city’s political boundaries for the next decade.

Two factions of the City Council have proposed competing versions of the ward boundaries; one led by the council’s Rules Committee and backed by the Black Caucus, the other created and endorsed by the Latino Caucus.

One of the core issues is how many majority Black and majority Latino wards there will be. The Latino Caucus is battling for more representation as the city’s Latinx population has grown, while the Black Caucus is trying to keep hold of its wards even as more Black residents left Chicago in the past 10 years.

Here’s what the city’s proposed ward map looks like:

Neither map has enough Council backing to avoid sending the maps to Chicago voters to in a June referendum. Neither group has ruled out suing if their favored map lost in a referendum or was not adopted by the City Council.

At a hearing Friday, Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University who has worked on redistricting legal challenges, said there’s no legal basis either map discriminates against the Latino community in violation of the Voting Rights Act. 

Lichtman, who was hired by the Rules Committee to offer his opinion, said he did not evaluate how either map would fare if someone asserted discrimination against Black or Asian-American residents.

Friday was the last of four scheduled hearings on the remap, but the next steps in the process remain unclear. Alderpeople have until 40 days before the June 28 primary to approve a map with 41 votes to avoid a referendum.

Credit: Provided
Proposed ward map by the Chicago City Council Latino Caucus.

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), who leads the Rules Committee, has rejected overtures from the Latino Caucus to adopt formal rules to govern the map-making process inside City Hall and create a panel of alderpeople from both sides to work towards a compromise.

Supporters of the Latino Caucus map filed paperwork in December to put their map up for a referendum, but if City Council approves a map before mid-May without the 41 vote supermajority, it would start the process over and the Latino Caucus would need to refile their version.

While Chicago taxpayers would foot the bill to defend a city-approved map from a legal challenge, supporters of the Rules Committee map have incorrectly argued that a referendum would cost taxpayers millions of dollars, according to WTTW.

The cost of a referendum to taxpayers would be less than $600,000 if adding a ward map question resulted in an additional page being added to paper ballots, according to said Max Bever, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections.

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