The Redistricting Fight Rages in Chicago

The Redistricting Fight Rages in Chicago

The latest census data has Blacks, Latinos, and whites fighting for their political futures in cities around America. Now the battle comes to the Windy City.

Published January 10, 2012

The redistricting fight is well upon us now. Following the results of the 2010 census, cities and states around the nation began working to redraw voting districts, but nothing is going to be completed without a healthy share of arguments first. In Maryland and North Carolina, voters filed legal challenges to their new districts, charging that the new maps attempted to “dilute minority voting power.” Elsewhere, in Michigan, Missouri, and California, the expectations were for more fighting between Blacks and whites, with Blacks charging that the revamped districts would effectively neuter the political power they’d enjoyed for years. Now the arguing moves to a city where politics are known to have a typically ugly bent: Chicago. Let the brawl begin.


This from the Chicago Tribune:


A South Side alderman on Monday backed a new ward map drawn by Latino colleagues, revealing a small rift within the City Council's 19-member Black Caucus. Ald. Toni Foulkes' decision was not a complete surprise. The 15th Ward alderman was the lone African-American council member not to sign off on the version of a new map put together by the Black Caucus and its council allies.


The gist is this: With the massive influx of Latinos into Chicago in the past decade — Latinos now outnumber Blacks in the once African-American hub — the political power dynamics of the city have changed. The redistricting drawn up by the Black aldermen would help them retain a lot of the control they’ve had over African-American neighborhoods like Lincoln Park by not dividing them up. The Latino aldermen want the opposite: to divide up traditional Black strongholds in order to even the playing field when it comes to elections, which, like it or not, are occasionally split along ethnic lines.


We’ll have to wait to see the end result of this Windy City bickering, which is continuing behind closed doors as Black and Latino aldermen meet to try and reach a deal. But one thing it would be wise of the aldermen to remember is that, much as things are remaining static, the world is changing, and defining districts based on race won’t work forever. Just last year, a 53-year-old Black Chicagoan named Patricia Mosley told the Associated Press she would not be voting for Black candidate Harold Washington in the city’s mayoral race: "It's pretty naive and frankly a little insulting that they think our intelligence is so low that they say the name 'Harold Washington' and people will vote for you,” she said.


In other words, shaping the districts to their racial specifications may not work eventually. And then all the politicians will be stuck using their ideas to win elections. Imagine that.


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(Photo: TANNEN MAURY/EPA/Landov)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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