When the 2010 census took place, the final results showed that the
city of Lincoln had a population of slightly under 15,000.
Illinois state laws are sketchy on the subject, but it appears that
the city is going to have to redistrict its wards from five to four
because of the drop in population.
The issue is sketchy because, according to Snyder, the law
appears to say in one section that redistricting is required and in
another section that it is not.
City attorney Blinn Bates has talked to the Illinois Municipal
League on the subject and has advised the council that it would be
in their best interest to do the redistricting.
Tuesday evening, Snyder said that as suggested by Alderman David
Wilmert several months ago, he has looked into what it would take to
challenge the census statistics.
To contest the population figures, the city would have three
They could challenge the accuracy of the city boundaries that
were used in the count. Snyder said this one would be very difficult
because the city of Lincoln had received documents outlining the
city boundaries and had been asked to verify they were correct,
which the city had done.
The second option would be to challenge the "geo-coding" of the
census. This would involve challenging what the census reported as
the number of people living within the areas as they were plotted by
the census takers.
Finally, the city could challenge the accuracy of the count based
on census coverage. In this challenge the city would need to offer a
valid explanation of how the census may have excluded some
Of the three challenges, the last is the one most likely to be
successful, but Snyder said a lot of time would have to be invested
in gathering supporting evidence for the challenge. He said he
didnít feel the city had sufficient time for such an undertaking.
However, if the city were to challenge the figures, Snyder said
that would not initiate a recount on the part of the Census Bureau.
The bureau would instead consider the validity of the challenge
based on what was submitted to them and then render a decision, and
that decision could go either way.
As the council discussed what to do, Wilmert asked Bates to talk
about what the consequences would be if the city decided to go by
the second part of the state law and remain as five districts.
Bates said there was a risk that decisions made by the 10-member
council could be challenged as illegal because they were not
operating according to state law. He said this would put the council
on shaky ground on any decision they made, as it would be open to
Wilmert also asked if that would involve someone reporting the
council to the state, and Bates said that more than likely it would.
Bates was also asked if there were any legal cases on record that
involved this. He said to date there are no cases on record where
decisions have been challenged. However, he said there was a case on
record where the state forced the municipality to reduce their
number of wards and aldermen.
During discussion it also came up that the last time the city
wards were mapped out was in the 1970s.
Because the wards are supposed to be somewhat equal in
population, Snyder said the 40-year span could have an effect on the
wards regardless of if there were four or five.
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Snyder said he had talked to Bruce Harris & Associates, the firm
that did the same work for Logan County recently, and he charges
$150 per hour to remap the wards. Snyder suggested that perhaps the
city needed to do two maps, one for the five wards and one with
Harris had told Snyder that when doing the county, there were not
a lot of hours involved, so it was done relatively inexpensively. On
the other hand, he said the county did not change their number of
districts, which may have made the process simpler.
Chuck Conzo, city treasurer, agreed that regardless of what the
city does about the number of wards, a remapping is probably long
Wilmert asked Bates if he could contact the attorney generalís
office and get a clarification on the law from them. Bates said he
could, but he didnít feel they would give him a good answer. He went
on to say that he felt that if there were a good answer to this
problem, the Illinois Municipal League would have been able to tell
Wilmert said for him it just didnít sit well that the city should
have to go to the effort and expense, when the population count
shows that the city is below 15,000 by only about 150.
Bates also noted that even if the attorney generalís office did
offer an out, it could be overturned in a court of law if the city
were challenged on one of their decisions.
Alderwoman Jonie Tibbs asked how the wards could be remapped and
what it would mean for the aldermen. She noted that the aldermen
have to live in their wards, and that could become a problem.
Alderwoman Melody Anderson addressed that, saying that all the
aldermen would have to run for election again.
Snyder expanded on that, saying that if the city went to eight
aldermen, all eight would have to be elected at the same time. After
the election, there would be a drawing among the aldermen that would
stagger the terms in the new wards, with a two-year seat for one
alderman and a four-year seat for the other alderman. This is done
for continuity of experience in each ward. A ward would not have two
inexperienced representatives at once.
Snyder also told the council they are working against a time
limit. The new wards must be established 30 days before the next
election, which will be in November, meaning this must be finished
no later than October.
He concluded the discussion by asking the councilís permission to
have further discussions with Harris & Associates. He said he could
talk to that firm, then this could be brought up again for council
discussion at the July 6 meeting.
[By NILA SMITH]
Past related articles
June 15, 2011 --
City redistricting would cut aldermen to 8
July 13, 2011 --
Water shut-offs, stop signs and more
Sept. 14, 2011 --
Prison closure, potential ward changes,
sewer problem and more
Sept. 16, 2011 --
County prepares to contest city
annexation, discuses raises for nonunion employees and more
Sept. 24, 2011 --
Board struggles with possible annexation
contest with city; approves nonunion pay raises, request for
public transportation funds, letter of support to keep prison
open and more
May 24, 2012 --
City discusses reducing wards from 5 to 4