Several Evanston aldermen this week voiced reluctance try to redraw ward boundaries, after the city attorney said they’re not legally required to go through the process.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the last redistricting, in 2003, “went on for months, was very costly and was a very unpleasant experience.”

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who hadn’t yet been elected to the City Council in 2003, said she was on one of the citizen committees that looked at redistricting. The process, she said, “was very painful, and I don’t want to go through it again.”

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she agreed with Rainey and Holmes. And Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said the population changes in the 2010 census “don’t amount to much.”

The last redistricting effort became tangled in efforts to try to assure that two city wards would contain a majority of minority voters.

There was also controversy over a decision to split the Northwestern University campus and the immediate area adjacent to campus among three wards — a move that was seen as a way to disenfranchise student voters.

There was some support among aldermen this week for making minor adjustments to boundaries to make them more consistently follow natural dividing lines, like major roads.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she’d like to see more compact boundaries for her ward, and Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said a little rebalancing “might be worth discussing.”

City Attorney Grant Farrar said the state municipal code only requires redistricting if the population of a community has changed so much as to require a change in the number of aldermen.

And he said U.S. Supreme Court decisions generally consider a population variation of as much as 10 percent between wards to be constitutionally acceptable.

Some Evanston wards, based on the latest census, now have populations as much as 8 percent larger or smaller than average.

Related story

Aldermen set to act on redistricting

Related documents

Map showing population changes by ward

City staff presentation on redistricting

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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