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New city ward boundaries to take effect in 2015 for elections, officials say

Updated: March 3, 2012 11:33AM



Chicago’s old ward boundaries — not the new ones — will apply for the March 20 election for ward committeeman and until 2015, election officials ruled Wednesday, resolving at least part of the confusion over when the new map takes effect.

With 1,700 polling places to assign for 2,369 Chicago precincts, Election Board spokesman Jim Allen said it would be “impossible” to reconfigure it all in time for the Illinois Primary.

“It takes time. You can’t just flick a button. You have to check every block and every street address,” he said.

In addition, military and overseas ballots are going out this week to comply with a federal law that requires them to be out the door 45 days before the election.

The bottom line is that candidates for ward committeemen will run under the old boundaries, Allen said. For election purposes, the new ward map will not take effect until 2015, he said.

“Even if we had a special election in 2013 — say an alderman resigned to take another job — our reading of the law is that the election would be under the old boundaries, because you’re serving out the old term,” Allen said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that two weeks after aldermen signed off on a new ward map, confusion reigns about when those dramatically different boundaries take effect.

Some aldermen are racing to curry favor with their new voters in hopes of boosting their prospects in the 2015 election. Others are ignoring the new boundaries and servicing the voters who brought them to the dance.

The Election Board’s ruling eliminates some of the confusion but not all of it.

Still at issue are such pivotal neighborhood decisions as zoning changes, liquor license moratoriums, city service requests and the $66 million-a-year program that allows aldermen to choose from a menu of neighborhood improvements.

Without a date certain about when the new ward lines take effect, there’s the possibility that some Chicagoans may get twice as much attention while other residents get none.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, noted that the remap ordinance states that the new ward boundaries take effect later this month, which is “not realistic,” given the “lag time” needed for city departments to adjust to the new boundaries.

“People are looking for a timetable. ....My understanding is, we’re gonna all sit down and figure out how to phase it in or figure out whether it will be phased in. If it’s prolonged, the Council will have an opportunity to weigh in on that,” O’Connor said.



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