Chicago Election Board unveils precinct consolidation plan tied to redistricting

The once-a-decade redistricting process will eliminate 779 of the city’s 2,069 precincts.

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Fewer election judges will be needed to staff the 1,290 new precincts that result from once-a-decade precinct consolidation. That will cut costs by nearly $2 million — $2,500 for every one of the 779 precincts eliminated — and minimize shortages with potential to delay the opening of polling places.

Fewer election judges will be needed to staff the 1,290 new precincts that result from once-a-decade precinct consolidation. That will cut costs by nearly $2 million — $2,500 for every one of the 779 precincts eliminated — and minimize shortages with potential to delay the opening of polling places.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago voters will have to find their way to new polling places beginning on Nov. 8, thanks to a precinct consolidation tied to the once-a-decade redistricting process that will eliminate 779 of the city’s 2,069 precincts.

The benefit is fewer election judges will be needed to staff the 1,290 new precincts. That will cut costs by nearly $2 million — $2,500 for every one of the 779 precincts eliminated — and minimize shortages with potential to delay the opening of polling places.

“It will be beneficial in not having empty judge’s tables or empty precincts like we saw pop up in the June 28th primary election,” said Election Board spokesman Max Bever.

“Election judges are harder to recruit. It’s not the most pay [$230] for a long day of work. The amount of training that goes into it. This last primary, we only had 6,139 assigned judges. And we had 3,275 that resigned or did not serve. That was one of the bigger issues this last election faced...Not opening on time or not having enough people to help voters with questions or deal with equipment issues.”

The downside is that, with twice as many voters in each precinct — 1,165 apiece compared to 550-to-750-per-precinct before — Chicagoans who still choose to cast their votes in person could face longer waiting times.

And with so many voters changing precincts, there could be widespread confusion when residents show up at the wrong polling places.

Bever believes that both negative outcomes can be avoided.

He pointed to changing voting habits that saw 70 percent of voters in the 2020 general election that took place during the height of the pandemic either voting early or casting their ballots by mail.

In-person voting dropped to 52 percent in the June 28 primary.

“Given that early voting and vote-by-mail numbers have continued to be solid — including being over 50 percent for this last election — most precinct polling places really don’t see the numbers that they used to over the previous decades,” Bever said.

“Now there’s a majority of people choosing to early vote or vote by mail instead of voting on Election Day. But we do want to make clear that this isn’t immediately affecting the number of polling places. This is not reducing polling places by 40 percent. This is reducing precincts. Because in fact, we had only 1,043 polling places for this last primary election for 2,069 precincts.”

The number of lost precincts varies greatly with each ward.

The biggest drop — from 53 precincts before to 20 precincts under the new alignment — occurred in the 34th Ward.

The Far South Side Ward now represented by indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), is shifting to the North Side to accommodate a surge in downtown residents.

Austin gave up her council seat to make it easier for the council to redraw Chicago’s ward boundaries to accommodate the 2020 U.S. Census amid an 85,000-person decline in Chicago’s Black population.


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