The City Council approved today, 41-8, a new map of Chicago’s 50 wards, just clearing the threshold to avoid a public referendum on competing maps. But after months of deliberate public hearings and also closed-door meetings between aldermen, the final compromise map could still face legal action.
"We will see what happens after all the lawsuits are filed," Ald. Nick Sposato, whose 36th ward becomes majority Hispanic under the map, told Progress Illinois. Sposato voted against the map today.
A lawsuit could cost the city between $20 million to $30 million.
The city council’s Black and Latino caucuses revived a stalled remap process last week when they reached a tentative agreement on a map drafted by the Black caucus and city council leaders like Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), chairman of the Rules Committee.
The city council approved a version of that map today after Rahm Emanuel convened a special meeting of the council at 10 a.m. The council met after the Rules Committee convened at 9 a.m. to sign off on the map.
Sposato, who tried to delay today's vote, says a parliamentary maneuver to force the vote could also factor into any legal action.
The map does satisfy legal requirements regarding the 1965 Voting Rights Acts that guarantees equal representation to racial minorities. There are 18 majority Black wards, 13 majority Hispanic wards, and two Hispanic "influence" wards.
However, the map might not meet the most basic rule of representation: One person, one vote. Some wards on the far South Side have almost five percent more than the 53,912 median ward population – some on the far North Side have almost five percent less than the median.
The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and other groups released their own maps to be considered by the Chicago City Council. These maps more closely adhere to “one man, one vote” and could set in motion a lawsuit against the city.
Several advocacy groups could be party to these lawsuits, as they were disenchanted with the final map.
Theresa Mah, policy consultant for the Coalition for a Better Chinese Community, says it is too soon to know if her organization will join a potential lawsuit. But Mah is adamant that the compromise map does not effectively represent Chicago's growing Asian population. "I can't really say that our concerns were heard by anyone," Mah says. "The [compromise map] splits Chinatown into five wards."
Aldermanic fears of a lawsuit were partly allayed earlier this week when American University professor and redistricting legal expert Allan Lichtman said that the map could withstand a legal challenge. Lichtman, though, did say that aldermen would need to prove that these population variances were designed to protect Black and Latino voters.