• Erin Hegarty
    MAR 03, 2022

    Tweaking Latino Caucus ‘Coalition Map’ on June primary ballot faces ‘uncharted territory’ in election law

    Sponsors of the so-called “Coalition Map” and the CHANGE Illinois-backed “People’s Map” held a press conference before the February City Council meeting [Erin Hegarty/The Daily Line] 

    As ward remap negotiations among competing groups of aldermen have ground to a halt, a group of aldermen that has already filed paperwork to put their map to voters in a referendum wants to make modifications to the map they originally proposed to accommodate a new group of supporters. 

    But legal teams representing multiple agencies and parties are discussing whether or how the proposed “Coalition Map,” which is backed largely by the City Council Latino Caucus and filed to be placed on the June 28 Primary Election ballot as a referendum question, can be legally changed, Chicago Board of Elections spokesperson Max Bever told The Daily Line on Wednesday. 

    Sponsors of the City Council Latino Caucus-backed “Coalition Map” filed paperwork to put their ward map proposal on the June ballot the day after the City Council blew past a critical Dec. 1 deadline by which it was supposed to vote on a new ward map that will be in place for the next decade. An advantage to being the first group to file referendum papers is that that map appears on the ballot before any other potential map proposals.  

    Related: Latino Caucus puts its ward map proposal up for referendum: ‘It’s time for the voters to decide’ 

    Last month, supporters of the independent commission that drew its own ward map proposal announced its endorsement of the so-called “Coalition Map,” saying they had “joined forces” with backers of the Latino Caucus-backed map to push forward an updated map “that incorporates key elements of The People’s Map.” The People’s Map commission drew its proposed wards after holding dozens of public meetings to gather input from residents on how ward boundaries should be drawn. 

    Related: Independent ‘People’s Map’ commission endorses Latino Caucus-backed ward map, supports PAC in latest step toward referendum 

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    With the endorsement of the CHANGE Illinois-backed People’s Map group, the Coalition Map changed its map in part to reflect the “community input process” undertaken by the independent commission, according to a news release.

    The tweaked Coalition Map proposes to keep the new 11th Ward a majority-Asian ward and proposes for Englewood to be represented by two wards, “splitting it by the boundaries of the Englewood and West Englewood community areas,” according to the news release.   

    The map also “reconfigures” the ward covering Woodlawn to keep Woodlawn and Washington Park in the same ward and boundaries of the 16th, 20th, 5th, 37th, 29th and 28th wards “to align with the ward boundaries in The People’s Map,” according to a news release. 

    But it is unclear whether the map the Latino Caucus already submitted to go to referendum can be changed. 

    A legal issue could arise if aldermen file paperwork to place an entirely new map proposal on the ballot. Aldermen are each allowed to support only one map, meaning those listed as sponsors of the original "Coalition Map" would not be able to support a new map. 

    Officials expect to issue a determination "soon" on whether the Latino Caucus can amend its map, Bever said.

    The People’s Map coalition had “developed a list of priorities” it wanted incorporated into whatever map it chose to endorse, CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek told The Daily Line on Wednesday. 

    “The coalition group responded in earnest and in good faith and said they would incorporate several of [the priorities] and it was on that basis that we joined forces with them,” Doubek said. “I don’t know what would happen if that doesn’t happen.” 

    Doubek pointed out that “legislation is amended and updated all the time” and added that the People’s Map commission had discussions with its commissioners and CHANGE Illinois board members “before agreeing to move forward with this group of council members.” 

    Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36), who chairs the Latino Caucus, told The Daily Line on Wednesday that incorporating the changes proposed by CHANGE Illinois is important following “give-and-take” from both sides in “landing in a place where we’re following the data and the Voting Rights Act.” 

    When the Latino Caucus-backed “Coalition Map” was filed more than one month before the Dec. 1 deadline, it “sparked dialogue and discussion around something that people can see” and the People’s Map members incorporated input from the public. 

    “The People’s Map members like that we were willing to talk to them, willing to make changes,” Villegas said, adding that the data and priorities of the aldermen who support the Coalition Map aligned with those of the People’s Map proposal. 

    As a result, the People’s Map group put its support behind the Coalition Map and aldermen are hoping to make some changes to their original map to incorporate feedback the independent group “heard from residents across the city,” Villegas said. 

    The incorporation of a third party like the People’s Map is “uncharted territory,” Villegas said, pointing to the last time a ward map decision went to voters in 1992. 

    Whereas Latino Caucus leaders filed paperwork to put their proposed map on the June 28 ballot, sponsors of the Rules Committee map — largely Black and white aldermen — have not yet made any concrete moves to put their proposal on the ballot. 

    Related: Aldermen remain at loggerheads over ward remap as negotiations shift to ‘hot spots’ 

    After a tense in-person meeting in January between members of the Latino Caucus, Black Caucus and some white aldermen, Ald. Michelle Harris (8), who chairs the Rules Committee, said that if it were up to her, she would have already filed paperwork for the rules committee map to be put in a referendum question but that it’s “up to” the 33 aldermen who support the proposal to decide how to move forward. 

    Harris did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week on whether she hopes to put the committee map up to a referendum.

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