Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Clout Street: Group sues over new Chicago ward map

I'm sure many of you who were unhappy about last year's remap (the image you see to the right) would be very happy about this development. Someone stepped up to the plate and filed a suit!
More than a year after Chicago aldermen thought they had settled the contentious issue of redrawing the city's 50 ward boundaries, the new map they approved is facing a challenge in federal court.

The remap is unconstitutional because it was designed to protect most of the current aldermen, rather than ensure equal and full representation of individuals, minorities and neighborhoods, according to a lawsuit filed today by the League of Women Voters of Chicago and 14 individuals.

The suit also alleges that City Council committee chairmen have improperly implemented the new map before voters have had a chance to pick aldermen from within the new boundaries. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration “acquiesced” in that change, the lawsuit adds.

“The purpose of the new redistricting plan for the 2015 elections is to entrench the majority of City Council members in their current offices,” the suit states. “The purpose of the plan’s immediate implementation is to give the incumbents an unfair electoral edge by allowing an unlawful ‘early bird’ representation of the persons voting in the next City Council elections in 2015.”

The suit seeks to force aldermen to adhere to the old ward boundaries in decision-making until after the 2015 elections and to get a judge to name a person or special committee to draw up a new map “that will be fair, impartial and protect the voting rights of racial minorities.”
But to satisfy most members of each caucus, and 41 aldermen overall, the number of people within each ward differed by as much as 8.7 percent, which the suit contends violates the one-man, one-vote principle established by the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, the council majority started using the new map three years early so aldermen could gain favor with new voters, the suit alleged.

To get those 41 votes, aldermen drew wards with “grotesque shapes and boundaries,” the suit states, citing the new 2nd Ward, the only ward to be moved to a completely different location.
The suit alleges that the two substantially altered wards were designed to “oust” Ald. Robert Fioretti, 2nd, and Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 36th, who “have shown political independence from the City Council majority.”
The map also “fragments some of the best-known Chicago neighborhoods into multiple wards,” the suit states. Back of the Yards and Logan Square are each in five wards, and Chinatown is in two, it states.

The suit also takes issue with efforts by aldermen and the administration to start making decisions based on new ward boundaries.

Last October, the Latino and Black Caucus chairmen and the council’s most powerful chairmen wrote to all of their colleagues, making it clear they would jump-start the shift to new boundaries. “We are proposing that the City Council, from this time on, implement the boundaries as reflected in the map that it passed earlier this year,” the letter states.
A community resident a prominent one who heads a neighborhood organization affected by the remap always said "it was a done deal". We shall see if this lawsuit changes things. Although I have wondered would they have passed this map knowing that there's a chance it may not hold up in a court?

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