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City Ward Redistricting Provides Opportunity for Greater Community Representation

The decennial remap will reshape the region beyond the next 10 years.

Earlier this year, Metropolitan Planning Council explored the declining Black population and the overall loss of immigrants in the Chicago area. The newly released Census numbers from this summer indicate that Illinois has lost people in the 2020 Census. Despite the loss, the City’s population grew nearly 2% from 2010 to 2020, taking from 2.6 million residents to 2.7 million. It is sobering news as the city had lost almost 7% of its population in 2010 since 2000.

Much of the gain in population for the City has been in the Latino (now nearly 30%) and Asian (now nearly 7%) populations. The 2020 Census showed that Latinos surpassed Blacks as the largest racial or ethnic group in Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois for the first time. At the same time, the Black population decreased 9.7% in City during the past decade (now nearly 29%). The White population grew slightly by 1% totaling 31% of the overall City population.

Image courtesy The Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission

Every ten years, the congressional, state, and ward lines are drawn to reflect population changes as stated by law. The City of Chicago traditionally redraw lines behind closed doors without much input from the public. CHANGE Illinois, a good governance organization, attempted to reshape redistricting by forming an independent 13-member resident-led Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission (CARC). The commission’s goal was to draw a ward map (“The People’s Map”) by the people of Chicago, for the people of Chicago. It could be adopted through a public referendum in 2022 should ten alderpeople vote against the official map from the City.

Legally the official City map will need to be agreed upon by City Council by the end of the year. With time ticking and the Latino Caucus and Black Caucus in disagreement with how City Council should draw lines in totality, the People’s Map started the hard work this summer. The CARC held 31 virtual and/or in-person public hearings from June 22 to October 1. During this process, the commission received over 500 testimony and map submissions from all regions of the city. The Commission drafted a map for Chicago’s 50 City Council wards that sought to keep together Chicago’s communities of interest, as described through the public testimony the Commission received. In addition to drawing wards based on communities of interest, the Commission also endeavored to draw a map providing racial and ethnic minority communities with an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. Finally, the Commission followed traditional districting criteria throughout the ward mapping process, including population equality, geographic compactness, and contiguity, and drew following the Voting Rights Act.

Ultimately, the Commission sought to protect racial and ethnic minority communities during the mapping process. These efforts resulted in a draft ward map that contains 15 majority-Black wards and 14 majority-Latino wards (13 of which include a majority-Latino Citizen Voting Age Population). Additionally, one ward was drawn to keep the Greater Chinatown community together intentionally. The map provides an opportunity for communities to remain intact for greater electoral power when compared to the current map where communities like Englewood or Chinatown area are divided into multiple wards with sometimes as many as six different representatives. Often it means that these communities spend more time advocating to numerous public officials with less success.

The City Council rules committee has begun offering opportunities to weigh in by residents. Residents should voice how they would like their communities to be shaped and represented for the next decade. How the lines are redrawn is fundamental to our democracy and electoral system. The next opportunity for redistricting will come after the 2030 Census – how do we want the City to look depends on the ward shapes and the representatives. There’s a real chance for a fairer and more equitable map by influencing the City’s map or advocating for The People’s Map. Explore The People’s Map here:; take action and support The People’s Map here:

Debbie was a member of the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission.