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Chicagoans Could Vote On Ward Map For First Time In 30 Years As Alderpeople Send Rival Version To Ballot

Alderpeople who backed a ward map proposed by the City Council's Rules Committee are putting their map on the June 28 primary election ballot, going head to head with the map created by the Latino Caucus.

Looking north to the Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park neighborhoods from the John Hancock Center, as seen from the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck in the Streeterville neighborhood on Feb. 5, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Voters will go to the polls to choose which ward map will shape Chicago’s political boundaries over the next decade, unless alderpeople force a dramatic, currently out-of-reach compromise by late May.

Thirty-three alderpeople filed a petition Tuesday to place the ward map drawn up by the City Council’s Rules Committee on the June 28 primary election ballot, squaring up against the map created by the Latino Caucus. All but one member of the Black Caucus supported taking the issue to a vote.

The 15 alderpeople who support the Latino Caucus map put up their version up for referendum in December. Latino Caucus chair, Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), said last month he is “100 percent” committed to letting voters decide between the competing maps rather than striking a compromise with at least 41 votes in City Council.

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), who led the remap process as chair of the Rules Committee, said she’s still open to negotiations. But the 26 alderpeople who gathered at City Hall Tuesday to file the map with the City Clerk’s office provided a preview of a potentially personal campaign fight.

“I’m confident our fair map will be supported by Chicagoans who want us to chart a new path for our city and move on to addressing other issues impacting their daily lives,” Harris said. 

Here’s the Rules Committee map. You can find another version here.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) argued the map crafted by the Rules Committee, dubbed the “Chicago United Map,” would “enhance the political empowerment” of the Latino community because it “increases the chances of the Latino community to have more wards with a higher percentage of citizen age population of Latinos.”

Maldonado also took a shot at Villegas, saying that “maybe running for Congress is much more important to him” than negotiating a compromise map. Villegas is running for the newly created 3rd district congressional seat.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), the sole Black alderperson supporting the Latino Caucus map, said in statement Tuesday’s filing signified the “City Council Map Committee has finally realized that there aren’t enough alderpeople who support a backroom deal.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has stayed on the sidelines during the tense remap negotiations, but said at an unrelated news conference it’s “unfortunate that the battle lines” were drawn early on and “compromise is always the best thing.”

Here’s the Chicago Coalition map from the Latino Caucus:

The Latino Caucus believes the city’s ward map created after the 2010 census didn’t adequately represent the city’s growing Latino population. The group has vowed to not accept fewer than 15 majority Latino wards in the next map.

The Latino Caucus map has 15 majority Latino wards, 16 majority Black wards, the first ever Asian American ward and three minority-majority wards.

The map put forth by the city’s Rules Committee has 14 Latino majority wards. It creates 16 Black majority wards, one Asian American ward and one ward, the 27th, with a Black plurality population. The map has been tweaked since it was first shared in December an can be viewed here.

In February, the Latino Caucus merged forces with an independent commission that was backed by CHANGE Illinois and other good government community groups to craft a map without the influence of politicians.

However, it’s not clear the Latino Caucus will be able to make changes to the map they submitted in November, despite pledging to tweak its boundaries based on negotiations with the independent commission. State law prohibits any alderperson from signing on to two maps filed for the referendum.

“The statutory text makes it clear that the alderpersons who already signed the filed referendum petition are now prohibited from signing any additional petitions. As is, there is no authority in Illinois election laws to withdraw a referendum petition after it is filed, nor to ‘decertify’ a referendum that has already been certified to the ballot,” said Max Bever, director of public information for the Chicago Board of Elections.

However, the board itself cannot rule on any changes, Bever said, and “has a duty to comply with whatever ballot certifications it receives from the Chicago City Clerk.” The Latino Caucus could seek to tweak the proposal through the City Clerk’s office, but that move could open up the possibility of a court challenge.

The Latino Caucus has also created a political spending fund to support the referendum campaign. Harris said her coalition will soon do the same, saying “it’s now a political process and you have to create a campaign.”

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