Democrats' Proposed IL House Map Further Divides Evanston

The Illinois House Democratic caucus on May 20, 2011 introduced a 3,750-page bill, HB 3760 (and Amendment #1), and publicly released a map for proposed new districts for the Illinois House of Representatives, that would further carve up Evanston. Currently, almost all of Evanston is in the 18th Rep. Dist., represented for the last year by Robyn Gabel and for many years prior by Julie Hamos, which extends from Sherwin Avenue in Rogers Park north along the lakefront. But for the last decade, roughly 6 precincts of Evanston's 6th Ward (basically all residents west of Ewing), were, somewhat confusingly, in the more suburban 17th District, which was represented by Beth Coulson (R-Glenview) from 1997 until 2011, and has been represented since January by Daniel Biss.


The proposed map transfers the remainder of Evanston's 6th Ward, plus parts of the 7th, and 5th Wards, out of the 18th District. The proposed House map also jettisons some south Evanston residents from the 18th, putting the area roughly defined by Dewey, Howard, and the Yellow Line into the Chicago-dominated 14th District.

North Evanstonians are no strangers to being redistricted for political purposes. In 1991, all of Evanston north of Church Street was severed from the district represented by then-freshman Jan Schakowksy, and was placed into a new 58th district along with freshman Jeff Schoenberg of Skokie, who had just been elected to a district made up largely of Skokie, Morton Grove, and Niles after beating George Van Dusen in the Democratic primary and Republican Eunice Conn in the general. In that 1991 redistricting, the now-south-Evanston-only 18th was extended west to Skokie and Rogers Park. In 1993, Schoenberg moved to Evanston.


In the 2001 redistricting, the 18th, by then represented by Hamos, lost much of Rogers Park, retaining only a small triangle in the northeastern corner of Chicago, shedding all of Niles Township, regaining all of Evanston north of Church except for the westernmost slice, and extending up the North Shore into New Trier. Schoenberg then ran for the Illinois Senate in the new 9th.


Meanwhile, altho the 17th House district into which far northwest Evanston had been placed had been drawn so as to allow a Democrat to win, incumbent Coulson narrowly beat Wilmette's Pat Hughes after a 2001 primary marked by Democratic infighting. The 17th remained Republican until Biss won it this fall, a rare Democratic pickup in a year marked by widespread Republican gains.


The proposed 2011 map moves parts of the 17th (Biss) considerably east (into Evanston and New Trier) while simultaneously retreating west (in the northern portion). The 18th (Gabel) contracts in Evanston and abandons the last vestige of its Rogers Park roots while acquiring huge swaths of subdivisions. Whereas the 18th formerly was defined largely by lakefront and mass transit lines, it now extends from Calvary Cemetery to the intersection of Pfingsten and Lake-Cook Road, beyond Deerbrook shopping center.


At first glance, it appears that African-Americans will make up an even smaller part of the new 18th. All of the 5th Ward north of Emerson and west of Dodge is shed, and the Evanston precincts bordering Howard Street, as well as most of the Rogers Park precincts that used to be in the 18th, also had significant African-American populations.


The Evanston portion of the new map is illustrated below. The full map can be viewed by clicking here. According to the ILGA site on the bill (and related bills), hearings on the maps started today and will continue this week. A deadline of May 27 is set for passage.