As Deadline Looms, Battle Over New Chicago Ward Map Shifts into High Gear

Video:  Alds. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Jason Ervin join “Chicago Tonight” to discuss the city ward remapping. (Produced by Leslie Hurtado)

The fight to shape politics for the next decade in Chicago by drawing new boundaries for the city’s 50 wards shifted into high gear Thursday, as the chairman of the Black Caucus acknowledged the group was prepared to go to court to maintain 18 wards with a majority of Black voters.

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Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) called the proposed map crafted by the City Council’s Latino Caucus “on its face is illegal” during an interview Thursday for “Chicago Tonight.”

That map would reduce the number wards with a majority of Black voters by two to 16 wards, while increasing the number of wards where a majority of voters are Latino from 13 wards to 15 wards.

While the Black Caucus has yet to publicly release its proposal for ward boundaries, Ervin said a plan sent to the City Council’s Rules Committee would maintain 18 wards where a majority of voters are Black.

“We could have even drawn a 19th ward if we chose to,” Ervin said. “But we want to be fair with everyone.”

Chicago’s Latino population rose 5% from 2010 to 2020, while Chicago’s Black population dropped 10%, according to the 2020 census. At the same time, Chicago’s Asian American population rose 31%.

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.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th Ward), a member of the Latino Caucus, said it is “an imperative” that the new ward map allow Chicago’s Latinos to exercise political power that reflects their growing population.

“You can’t make a map that has 18 majority Black wards that comes at the expense of parity for the Latino community and disenfranchises the Latino community,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

The Latino Caucus map disenfranchises the Black community, Ervin said.

“The law is very clear — you cannot violate one community to go after another,” Ervin said. “That’s clearly what this map does.”

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.

Ramirez-Rosa acknowledged that the proposal has been criticized by Asian American groups, and said the Latino Caucus was considering those concerns.

Ervin said the Black Caucus’ yet-to-be-revealed map includes a ward with a majority of Asian American voters.

The Latino Caucus’ map violates the Voting Rights Act, which ensures that Black, Latino and Asian Americans can exercise political power in keeping with their population, Ervin said.

State law requires Chicago wards to be “nearly equal as practicable” while being as “contiguous” and “compact” as possible while complying with

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.

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.

“If it goes to referendum, it goes to referendum,” Ervin said.

The Black Caucus is also prepared to challenge a map in court if it does not protect the political power of Black Chicagoans, Ervin said.

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, which Ramirez-Rosa said many caucus members believed was unfair to Latino Chicagoans. They are not willing to let that happen again, he added.

“The Latino Caucus is clear — we’re following the data, we’re following the law,” Ramirez Rosa said. “We’re looking to get 15 wards to make sure that our community is represented.”

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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