Evanston’s Redistricting Committee Tuesday night voted to recommend a single proposed new set of ward boundary lines for the city.

The committee-recommended new map. Black lines show existing ward boundaries, shading indicates proposed new ward boundaries, red lines indicate boundary changes, numbers in the areas being shifted show the population of those areas.

The committee previously had considered offering a multiple choice selection of new map options.

The proposed new map eliminates most of the current population variation between wards while making relatively minimal changes in ward boundary lines.

It reduces the population deviation from 20.4% to 3.4%

It also keeps the homes of all current alders within their existing ward boundaries.

However the map only modestly improves the compactness of the city’s ward boundaries — a metric designed to discourage gerrymandering of boundaries for political advantage.

One resident, Carl Klein, offered alternative maps that, based on an automated analysis by online redistricting software, provided much more compact ward boundarieds.

One of the alternative maps offered by Carl Klein.

In the example shown above, Klein’s map achieved a compactness score of 86 of a possible 100.

The committee did not disclose the compactness score of its map, but an Evanston Now analysis using the same software, indicates its compactness score is 66.

Evanston Now’s analysis indicates that the current ward map has a compactness score of 50.

However, Klein’s maps — in addition to requiring much more substantial movement of residents into new ward boundaries — also failed to meet one of the committee’s other goals — of continuing to have three council members represent portions of downtown Evanston.

The committee’s map would move a total of 4,592 people — or about 6% of the city’s residents — into new wards.

Two residents of the Sherman Plaza condominium development — which would shift from the 1st to the 4th wards under the committee’s map — protested that move during the committee meeting.

One of them, Steven Miszkowicz, claimed the change would have a detrimental effect on the ability of residents to tackle downtown issues including community disengagement, crime patterns and the declining retail presence downtown.

And Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), who’s not a member of the Redistricting Committee, said Sherman Plaza was a fundamental part of her ward and should remain in it.

Kelly also argued against subtracting any areas from her ward at all — claiming the committee should only address the two wards that currently have the greatest population disparities.

But the committee chair, Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th), said that would still leave the city with population disparities between wards that would violate recommended one-person-one-vote guidelines established by federal courts of no more than 10%.

In response to concerns raised by some residents at the meeting, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), a committee member, noted that changing ward boundaries would have no impact on school attendance areas, zoning districts, police beats or the delivery of any city services.

The ward boundaries only determine who gets to vote in which city council contest.

The committee is scheduled to report on its map-making progress to City Council on April 10, and hold another meeting to gather public feedback on April 25, with a final committee vote on the map scheduled for May 23.

City Council action to adopt a new map is tentatively scheduled for June 12.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Klein’s map does appear to give NU students stronger representation in the first ward. Currently, and in the panel’s proposed map, split the neighborhood where students live between 3 separate wards diluting their ability influence a city council election.

    Is anyone concerned that a minority group with a common set of interests (in this case housing) gets split up this way?

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *