Chicago Sued Over Changes in Voter Precincts and Polling Locations
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Aug. 29, perennial Chicago mayoral candidate Dr. Willie Wilson and individual voters filed a lawsuit challenging the Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners (CBEC) and its officials’ planned removal of 779 voting precincts (districts that state and local governments create for the purpose of administering elections) and 121 polling locations ahead of the November general election. In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that under the Illinois Election Code, the CBEC is obligated to disclose precinct boundaries at least 90 days prior to the next scheduled election. However, the CBEC does not plan to reveal the new precincts until October 2022. As a result, the plaintiffs contend that they “will be unable to meaningfully prepare for the campaign activities on election day if new precinct boundaries and new polling locations are disclosed less than 30 days before the November 8, 2022 general election at some time in October 2022.” They also claim that there will not be sufficient time before the November election for the CBEC to deliver notices to voters informing them of these mid-election cycle changes, therefore leading to confusion amongst voters as to where they must go to cast their ballots this November.
The plaintiffs argue that the CBEC’s proposed redistricting of precinct boundaries — which would reduce the number of precincts in the city by approximately 40% — and closing of polling locations violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), as well as their rights under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. According to the plaintiffs, the CBEC’s proposed elimination of numerous precincts will “disparately impact racial and/or ethnic minority voting blocs” by diluting the voting power of “African-American, Latino, Native American, and Asian voters.” Specifically, the plaintiffs assert that in failing to “obtain or consider demographic data, including race, national origin, age, or data for the number of voters with disabilities, prior to undertaking the redistricting of precinct boundaries and polling locations,” the CBEC did not consider “that a significant decrease in the number of precincts in largely African-American wards in Chicago would limit voter access, and thereby create inequity.” The plaintiffs request that the court pause the CBEC’s implementation of its new precinct and polling location plan until after the Chicago municipal runoff elections set for April 4, 2023.