Redistricting Committee implements public feedback on proposed new ward map


File Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

The newest iteration of Evanston’s ward map would reduce the deviation in population between the wards to 2.6% and impact 4,175 residents.

Jacob Wendler, Copy Editor

Evanston’s Redistricting Committee voted to implement public input on a proposed new ward map Tuesday night. The changes, which would be implemented in the 2025 elections, would keep Sherman Plaza in Ward 1 rather than moving it to Ward 4, make the wards more even in population and change fewer citizens’ current ward than the previously proposed map.

Evanston began its redistricting process in December 2021 to determine a new ward map based on the 2020 census. The overall city population did not change enough to require redistricting under state law. But under the current map, there is a 20.4% deviation in population across wards. This has been in place since 2003. That number far exceeds the 10% threshold that federal courts have determined as a requisite of the “one person, one vote” principle.

The map proposed by the committee last month and discussed by City Council on April 10 would reduce the deviation in population across the wards to 3.4%. The map would change wards for around 4,600 residents. If the changes proposed Tuesday night are implemented, the deviation would drop to less than 2.6% and only 4,175 people would be impacted.

In addition to redistributing residents across the city, the committee’s work has been guided by three main goals: maintaining three wards with majority non-white populations, ensuring Downtown Evanston is still represented by three councilmembers and implementing changes through an incremental approach.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said the goal of splitting Downtown Evanston between multiple wards has worked for Evanston in the past and should be continued.

“It’s a big burden to share, but it’s actually helpful that it is shared,” Wynne said. “It also brings more voices from the Council on to address the downtown issues. It doesn’t concentrate power in a single member.”

Wynne said she thinks the committee is “pretty close” to a final product, noting the new map only makes small changes to existing ward boundaries.

While many residents expressed concerns about their homes being categorized into new wards, Evanston resident Meleika Gardner said the city needs to completely change their current redistricting plans. Gardner wants the city to start redistricting from scratch to avoid reinforcing historical inequities.

“Wipe the ward lines clean so that we are not continuing the harm that was put in place years ago.” Gardner said. “Let’s not continue to build upon the harm with just minor tweaks to the map. Change it.”

Wynne defended the city’s incremental approach to redistricting, emphasizing the committee aims to keep neighborhoods within their current wards as much as possible.

Evanston resident Percy Berger Sr., who has lived in Evanston for more than 50 years and lived in seven of the nine wards, said the redistricting process is reinforcing divisions rather than unifying the city.

“I think there’s an overarching opportunity for the city (and) the aldermen to look at what contributions a redistricting of the wards can have on making the city a total unified city, ” Berger said.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said the altered map from Tuesday night’s meeting will be released to the public for further feedback before the committee makes a formal recommendation to council at its final meeting next month. The council will vote on the final map June 12.

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Twitter: @jacob_wendler

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