‘Big mess’ as to when new ward maps take effect
by BRIAN NADIG
Some aldermen may begin serving their new ward boundaries unofficially in early August when the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners plans to have the new boundaries in place for voter registration and other election matters.
However, several aldermen said this week that there’s a lot of uncertainty in City Hall as to when the official “switch off” will actually take place.
Ward boundaries change every 10 years based on the population shifts reported in the U.S. Census.
“It’s a big mess. Nobody has the answer,” Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said. “You can’t get a straight answer.”
Traditionally aldermen want to start serving the new boundaries as soon as possible because they want their new constituents to get to know them prior to the next aldermanic election, which in this case is Feb. 28, 2023. After the 2010 Census, the new boundaries took effect in January of 2012, Sposato said.
“The million-dollar question still is when do aldermen serve those (new) boundaries. The city hasn’t given a dedicated date yet,” Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) said. “The 311 system, chi311 app plays a huge role as well (and) nobody knows when the system will cross over to service the new wards.”
Sposato said that Corporation Counsel indicated to him that the new boundaries would be in effect until May of next year when the next council is sworn in but the city Department of Transportation recently told him that he could use his ward’s discretionary funds on an infrastructure improvement in the new portion of the 38th Ward.
Sposato said that he expects to work with his neighboring aldermen over the next few months to make sure that constituents are serviced, whether by the current or the new alderman. He added that he has been getting phone calls by voters asking which aldermanic office should they go to for a service request.
Complications could occur in those wards in which two neighboring aldermen do not like each other, Sposato said. He added that if there is a zoning proposal for a portion of his ward he is losing under to the remap, he would defer the decision to that neighborhood’s new alderman, he said.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) is distributing letters in Wildwood and Edgebrook north of Devon Avenue announcing that the 45th Ward office will start servicing those communities on Aug. 1. Those neighborhoods have been part of the 41st Ward for more than 20 years.
“In the coming weeks, my staff and I will do everything possible to ensure a seamless transition while maintaining a standard of excellence that residents in our community deserve,” the letter states.
Napolitano said that during the transition, “The 45th Ward and the 41st Ward have agreed that we will both service anybody that calls our office and asks for help to the best of our ability.”
“I just want to be pro-active,” making sure residents are aware of the new boundaries, Gardiner said.
The city elections board plans to mail out new voter registration cards, based on the new wards and precincts, later this summer or in the early fall, to all registered voters. The cards will include information on the voting districts for the new community public safety commission, an elected body that will oversee police accountability
In many instances voters will have a new precinct due to the consolidation as mandated by a new state law. A city precinct typically has between 500 to 700 voters but that will increase to about 1,200 to 1,800.
Elections board director of public information Max Bever said that voting habits have changed due to increased popularity of early and mail-voting, reducing the need for as many Election Day polling locations. He added that wards could see an elimination of 30 to 50 percent of their precincts.
In the June 28 primary election, 51 percent of the votes were cast via early or mail-in ballots, according to Bever.
Boundary changes on the Far Northwest Side include the 45th Ward picking up sections of Jefferson Park (near Lockwood and Sunnyside avenues) from the 38th Ward and portions of Edgebrook (north of Devon Avenue) and east Norwood Park (near Nagle and Devon avenues) from the 41st Ward.
Meanwhile, the 45th Ward lost sections of Old Irving Park and Independence Park to the 30th Ward, which also picked up precincts near the southeast corner of the Irving Park-Central intersection in Portage Park from the 38th Ward.
Under the remap, the 41st Ward lost a significant number of homes in order to get under the 55,000 per-ward threshold, and the 39th Ward, which includes Sauganash and Mayfair, had among the fewest changes in the city.
The 38th Ward picked up additional sections of Dunning.