Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

32° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Proposed wards would dilute (Editorial)

Evanston City Council will soon adopt a plan to redraw the boundaries of the city’s nine wards to evenly distribute Evanston’s voting-age population. Although residents can still submit maps for the City Council to consider, several of the plans on the table should give Northwestern students reason to be concerned — whether they vote in Evanston or not.

Some plans would distribute on-campus students, who currently are contained entirely within the city’s First and Seventh wards, to the Second Ward, as well. Quite literally, the Sorority Quads would be divided in half, and residents would be represented by two different aldermen. Even if the plans’ creators didn’t intend to dilute students’ voting power, adoption of that plan would achieve just that. While aldermen are scrambling to redraw lines that would give the Second Ward the black majority it lost in original proposals, no one seems that eager to keep students unified. They aren’t considered a “minority majority” worth preserving.

But it’s no big secret that students aren’t flooding Evanston voting booths on Election Day. Some are registered in their home states; others simply don’t care enough to participate. But there are many who do care about local politics, and their voices were heard loudly in April 2001, when Kellogg Prof. Allen Drebin lost the First Ward aldermanic race to incumbent Arthur Newman by a mere 57 votes. Although he kept his seat, Newman and the other aldermen certainly learned that students, united behind a cause, can be a powerful voting force.

Dividing on-campus students among three wards would make close calls like the 2001 race nearly impossible.

But if most students aren’t voting in the first place, what difference does it really make? The difference is that it’s still gerrymandering — dividing an area politically to give special advantages to some — and it’s still wrong. The odd-shaped wards in some of the map proposals make this painfully obvious.

Students shouldn’t have to vote in record numbers — or in any numbers — to have their interests protected by the aldermen on the council. When those interests aren’t protected, it is nothing short of ageism, and it demonstrates the animus the city has for the student body. If this were happening to any other group, the public outcry would be enormous — look no further than the battle to preserve the black majority in the Second Ward for proof.

Associated Student Government, recognizing these issues, has been working to create maps of their own to present to the council. Their efforts are commendable, especially since ASG sought to work with the Citizens’ Ward Redistricting Committee when undertaking the project. The ASG maps attempt to preserve the black majorities in the Second and Fifth wards while keeping the NU campus within two. In light of the other proposals on the table, it’s apparent that students have no choice but to look out for their own interests. Thankfully, ASG took the initiative.

Students should support the ASG plan — and showing up to a council meeting or two to make that support known wouldn’t hurt, either. But at the end of the day, the responsibility to prevent NU students from being further spread out falls squarely on the shoulders of Evanston’s nine aldermen.

Even if we are only here for four years, even if we do not have a massive voter turnout, we still live in this city. We eat at its restaurants; we shop at its stores. It is our home. And when the lines are redrawn, we should not be distributed among more wards than necessary. We deserve better.

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Proposed wards would dilute (Editorial)