Anyone can now submit their own suggested ward map to the Chicago City Council through a new online interactive mapping tool, the city announced Tuesday at a Rules Committee hearing.
The software allows users to draw their own ward boundaries, going by census blocks — the smallest area permitted legally — or precinct-by-precinct.
People must first register for a free account through the MyDistricting portal, which allows users to save their maps and alter them later before submitting them. Selecting the “Plan Manager” tab on the home screen takes people to maps they have already started, or they can start a new map by clicking the “Create Plan” button.
There’s an option to work off a template based on existing ward boundaries, or start with an entirely blank map of the city.
The interactive tool includes census data and can be broken down by racial and ethnic groups, as well as residents old enough to vote. People can redraw a completed map with all 50 wards or focus on a particular area or ward. The software also checks completed maps against that census data to make sure each proposed ward’s population isn’t too high or too low.
“There’s a lot of information on the screen, so don’t get overwhelmed,” Anne Schaeffer, a consultant working with the city, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “But this is pretty interactive for even first-time users.”
Once satisfied, Chicagoans can submit their map, along with their comments, which then will be emailed to all Council members. The Council has until Dec. 1 to approve a map ordinance. Failure to meet that deadline could lead to a costly referendum.
The city finds itself in a messy remapping battle as the council’s Latino Caucus submitted a map would add two majority-Hispanic wards to the city, a result of their 5.2% population increase, while reducing the existing 18 majority-Black wards to 16.
Cities and states across the nation have utilized the software to elicit public input during redistricting. To try out the software, go to app.mydistricting.com/legdistricting/chicago.