Want to Draw Chicago’s New Ward Map? There’s An App For That — But Clock is Ticking

A new Chicago ward map will take effect in time for the 2023 municipal elections — assuming it is not blocked by a judge. (WTTW News via Google Maps)A new Chicago ward map will take effect in time for the 2023 municipal elections — assuming it is not blocked by a judge. (WTTW News via Google Maps)

As members of the Chicago City Council continue to skirmish behind closed doors while crafting new boundaries for Chicago’s 50 wards based on the 2020 census, there is now an app to let Chicagoans try their hand at shaping city politics for the next decade.

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But Chicagoans will have to work fast.

The online tool will allow Chicagoans to use map-drawing software similar to the kind that members of the Chicago City Council have been using since the end of July — but Chicagoans have less than three weeks to send in their proposal.

The Chicago City Council’s Rules Committee held the first of three public hearings on the remapping effort Tuesday afternoon. Committee members heard from just five members of the public, and adjourned less than an hour later. The final two public hearings are set for 3 p.m. Wednesday and 3 p.m. Monday.

While the full City Council is set to meet Nov. 17, Rules Committee Chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) said a special meeting would be held before the Dec. 1 deadline to consider the maps. 

Harris, the mayor’s floor leader, has yet to propose a ward map. Nor has the City Council’s Black Caucus, which is led by Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward.) 

Ervin told WTTW News on Thursday that his caucus would not support a map that had fewer than 18 wards with a majority of Black voters.

At the same time, a map released by the Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus would reduce the number of 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.

Groups are also pushing the Chicago City Council to create a ward centered around Chinatown that has a majority of Asian American voters.

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.

If 10 alderpeople agree on an alternative map — either the one drawn by the Latino 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.

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 many caucus members believed was unfair to Latino Chicagoans. 

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.

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.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has yet to weigh in what a new ward map should look like, deferring to Harris. The mayor said on Friday that “there has to be some public process” before the maps are approved, but has not offered specifics on what that should look like.

During the 2019 campaign for mayor, and after she took office, Lightfoot said an independent commission should redraw the map.

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

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