The Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus on Friday unveiled a map that would reduce the number of wards with a majority of Black voters by two to 16 wards and add two wards where a majority of voters are Latino.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward), the chair of the Latino Caucus, said the map was a “perfect reflection of Chicago,” where the Latinos saw their share of Chicago’s population rise 5% from 2010 to 2020 and Chicago’s Black population dropped 10%, according to the 2020 census.
While Villegas said he is determined to ensure that Latino Chicagoans have an equivalent amount of political power to match their rising population, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward), the chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, has said he is determined to craft a map that maintains 18 wards where a majority of voters are Black.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward), the chair of the City Council’s Rules Committee and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader is leading the council’s official remapping effort. A member of the Black Caucus, Harris has also said she is determined to ensure the map that will shape Chicago politics for the next decade will have 18 wards where a majority of voters are Black.
“I don’t think that’s a match” with the census data, Villegas said.
The current ward map, which took effect in 2015 after years of legal challenges, includes 13 wards where a majority of voters are Latino, including the Southwest Side’s 14th Ward, which is represented by indicted Ald. Ed Burke.
The people of Chicago are 31.4% white, 29.9% Latino, 28.7% Black and 6.9% Asian, according to the 2020 U.S. census. In 2019, a majority of the 50 alderpeople elected to the Chicago City Council were Black or Latino.
An alternate map crafted by the Chicago Ward Advisory Redistricting Commission would increase the number of wards where Latinos make up a majority of residents by one to 14, while reducing the number of wards with a majority of Black voters by three to 15 wards. That proposal would create a ward with a majority of Asian American voters.
If 10 alderpeople agree on an alternative map — either the one drawn by the caucus or another group— it would force a referendum that would put the competing maps up to a vote, officials said. The deadline to trigger a special election on ward maps is Dec. 1.
But that would require alderpeople to give up the power to pick their own voters, while punishing their enemies and boosting their allies with a map that will determine political power in Chicago for the next decade.
To avoid a referendum, it will take “serious negotiations and serious compromise,” Villegas said.
Villegas and the Latino Caucus sought to present the proposed ward map as one that could win the backing of a wide range of alderpeople. When it is formally introduced to the Chicago City Council on Monday, it will be co-sponsored by 15 alderpeople, including Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward), a member of the Black Caucus, as well as North Side Alds. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) and James Cappleman, who are white.
Always fraught, this year’s remapping effort is particularly tense not only because the Black Caucus is determined to hang on to 18 wards, but also because of the Latino Caucus’ continuing anger over the remap after the 2010 census and its determination not to get “get played again,” as former Latino Caucus Chair Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward) told reporters at the start of the push.
The map from the Latino Caucus would create one ward that includes all of Chinatown, fulfilling a longtime demand of Asian American activists in Chicago. However, the map from the Latino Caucus shows that redrawn 11th Ward would have just 49% of voters who are Asian American.
That is likely to face opposition from groups including the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community which have demanded a ward that has a majority of Asian American voters to reflect the fact that Chicago’s Asian American community grew by 31% in the past decade, according to the 2020 census.
Three North Side wards — 40th, 49th and 50th wards — would not have a majority of voters from any one racial group, according to the Latino Caucus map. Fifteen wards would be home to a majority of white voters, according to the group’s proposed map.
Ald. David Moore’s 17th Ward, which now includes parts of Englewood, would see its boundaries move west to include all of Marquette Park, which is now home to a majority of Latino Chicagoans.
Moore, who is Black, spearheaded the push to rename Lake Shore Drive for Jean-Baptise Pointe DuSable and initially voted against plans to allow former President Barack Obama to build his presidential center in Jackson Park.
In addition, the 34th Ward — now on the Far South Side, which saw a steep drop in population during the past decade — would shift to the booming Near North Side and West Loop, according to the Latino Caucus’ map. Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward) is awaiting trial on charges she took bribes and lied to FBI agents. Austin, the second longest serving member of the City Council, has pleaded not guilty.
State law requires Chicago wards to be “nearly equal as practicable” while being as “contiguous” and “compact” as possible while complying with the Voting Rights Act, which ensures that Black, Latino and Asian Americans can exercise political power in keeping with their population.
Since Chicago’s population in 2020 was 2,746,388 residents, each ward should have 54,928 residents, according to data presented to the Chicago City Council.