City Council – Have an Independent Commission Redistrict Ward Boundaries

Savings: $1 million

Every ten years following the United State Census, the City must redraw the boundaries for each of the City’s 50 wards based on changes in population.  To redraw the ward boundaries, the City Council must agree and vote on legislation that establishes the makeup of the City’s wards.

Under this option, the City would establish an independent commission or have an independent organization redraw the City’s ward boundaries every ten years.

In 1990, the City Council could not agree on new ward map and so voters decided by referendum which map to choose.[1]  In response to the referendum, aldermen who opposed the map that had been chosen sued the City on the grounds that this map violated the Voter Rights’ Act.[2]  The resulting litigation cost the City $20 million.[3]  In 2000, the City’s redistricting process proceeded smoothly with only one dissenting vote and only a single legal challenge as of 2002.[4]  In 2011, the City has set aside $1 million for the remap process.[5]

Taking into account the fact that having an independent redistricting process would make the City less susceptible to legal challenges, independent redistricting could save the City $10 million litigation expenses for each ten year redistricting, based on the $20 million in litigation expenses the City has spent since 1990.  This translates to $1 million annually.

Proponents might argue that redistricting is best done by an independent body, not aldermen who have a direct stake in the outcome of the redrawing of ward boundaries.  They might point to Iowa, where an independent body has redrawn state and congressional districts since 1980.[6] Opponents might argue that redrawing ward boundaries is an essential part of the City’s democracy and should be done by aldermen who are elected by City voters, rather than an unelected, independent commission.

 

Budget Details[7]

Dept: NA Bureau: NA
Fund: NA Approp Code: NA

 


[1] Illinois law provides that if 10 aldermen oppose the ward boundaries passed by the City Council, the 10 aldermen can force a public referendum by submitting a competing set of ward boundaries.

Colman, Jeffrey D. and Bentz, Julie L. “Chapter 16: Redistricting and Reapportionment” in Redistricting and Reapportionment, Election Law 2002. pgs. 10 and 11.

http://www.jenner.com/files/tbl_s20Publications%5CRelatedDocumentsPDFs1252%5C392%5CRedistricting_Article.pdf

[2] Spielman, Fran. “Black caucus hire Freddrenna Lyle in ward fight”. August 2, 2011.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/6827140-418/black-caucus-hires-freddrenna-lyle-in-ward-fight.html

[3] Id.

[4]  Colman, Jeffrey D. and Bentz, Julie L. “Chapter 16: Redistricting and Reapportionment” in Redistricting and Reapportionment, Election Law 2002. pgs. 10 and 11.

http://www.jenner.com/files/tbl_s20Publications%5CRelatedDocumentsPDFs1252%5C392%5CRedistricting_Article.pdf

[5] Spielman, Fran. “Black caucus hire Freddrenna Lyle in ward fight”. August 2, 2011.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/6827140-418/black-caucus-hires-freddrenna-lyle-in-ward-fight.html

[6] Cook, Ed. “A Nonpartisan Approach to Redistricting”. The Legislative Lawyer from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Winter 2002.

http://www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/Central/LSB/Guides/NonpartisanApproach_NCSL_2002.pdf

[7] It is unclear where in the 2011 Annual Appropriation Ordinance, the authorization for spending on redistricting exists.