With the city’s redistricting process set to go into its second phase, a community meeting Saturday, Feb. 11, brought Second Ward residents together to discuss the remapping.
“I was happy that we got the opportunity to reassess what the Second Ward looked like, because we didn’t have representation in the council seat,” said Second Ward Council Member Krissie Harris, who took office after the process had begun. “I liked that the [redistricting] committee was open to bringing the Second Ward back to the table.”
The core question at the Saturday meeting was “how to make the Second Ward smaller?”
While the city is not required to redraw lines by state law, Evanston’s population breakdown establishes conditions for remapping.
According to the 2020 Census, the Second Ward, which gained 432 residents is 5% larger than the average ward. Further, the Third Ward’s population is 11.7% more than the average ward, while the Ninth Ward is undersized by 8.7%.
So the population difference between the largest and smallest ward is 20.4%. Under Evanston’s ordinances, it should be less than 10%.
“The goal of redistricting is to balance our ward population so we get as close to even as possible,” said Council Member Jonathan Nieuwsma, 4th Ward. Nieuwsma chairs the city’s redistricting committee.
While the hybrid discussion Saturday drew a small crowd of about 11 people, those residents who attended expressed concerns about possible configurations for the new wards.
The four proposals presented by Nieuwsma during the meeting included moving parts of the Second Ward into the First, Fourth, Fifth or Ninth wards.
Property owner Tina Paden vehemently opposed the first suggestion. “Not in agreement with that,” she said, urging the committee to instead address the shortfall in the Ninth Ward, which has the biggest deficit.
Another community member agreed with Paden’s suggestion to move part of the Second Ward to the Ninth Ward. “That makes a lot sense. I think she’s got a good idea,” said Second Ward resident Marjory Basso.
While the city has a November 2024 deadline for redistricting, the project’s timeline is ahead of schedule, with an expected final decision by May this year, Nieuwsma said.
Already five public meetings have been held to gather feedback, and now the redistricting committee is moving into deliberations and action, working to draw up maps, which will be sent back the redistricting committee later this month.
With the Second and Ninth Wards up for reelection in April, the committee is hoping to finalize redistricting “as early as possible,” without creating voter confusion, he said.