The City of Forest Park says it will go ahead with efforts to redraw the city’s ward maps. A town hall meeting will take place Thursday, August 17 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 745 Forest Parkway. Changes to the map will mean that some city residents along the borderlines will find themselves in a new ward with a different councilperson.

Every ten years, after the U.S. Census, all kinds of political districts are redrawn—city, county, state, and Congressional—in a process called redistricting. The reason why is to make sure that each district has about the same number of voters, so that everyone’s vote counts the same. It also takes into account whether certain parties or racial or ethnic groups are represented as fairly as possible.

Right now, the city does not have equitable population numbers for each ward. The city’s current population is 19,932. The new ward boundaries would bring each district closer to the ideal number of 3,986 people, with the number of voting-age residents between 2,742 and 2,973—instead of 2,716 to 3,035.

It also would get each ward’s standard deviation down below three-quarters of a percent at most, which means more accurate representation based on the number of people in each ward. Keep in mind that, even though the new standard deviations vary from -0.73% to 0.55%, those percentages represent less than 1% of a difference. Under federal law, anything over 1% is generally prohibited without a reason good enough to stand a court challenge. The current standard deviations, which statisticians use to measure the accuracy of percentages, are much larger whole numbers at -7.78% to 7.20%—meaning that the current ward boundaries are, statistically speaking, significantly off average.

What is standard deviation?

Here’s an explanation of standard deviation, which measures how far off the “mean” (the average of a group of numbers) a single number is:

YouTube video

And here’s how you figure it:

YouTube video

While it’s impossible to divide each ward into the exact same number of people and the exact same number of voting-age residents, the new maps would ensure that each ward has as close to an equal say as every other ward until the 2030 Census.

How will my ward change?

Here’s a breakdown by ward:

Ward 1

Ward 1 has the largest population of the city’s five wards at 4,273, but the lowest percentage of voting-age residents at 69.34% (2,963 people age 18 and up). Ward 1’s share of the city’s population is off by 7.2% standard deviation (287 people).

Under the new map, Ward 1 would have a population of 3,983, with 2,742 people of voting age (68.84% of ward residents). The standard deviation would be -0.08%, making it the most statistically accurate of the five wards.

Ward 2

Ward 2 has the third-largest population at 3,994, but the largest percentage of voting-age residents at 74.26% (2,966 people age 18 and up). Ward 2’s share of the city’s population is relatively accurate, with a standard deviation of only 0.2% (meaning it’s short by 8 people).

Ward 3

Ward 3 has the second-smallest population at 3,805, with 72.83% of those residents of voting age (2,771 people age 18 and up). Ward 3’s share of the city’s population is off by -4.54% standard deviation (meaning it’s short by 181 people).

Ward 4

Ward 4, which has the city’s smallest population at 3,676, but the second-highest percentage of voting-age residents at 73.88% (2,716 people age 18 and up). Compared to the city’s other wards, statistics from the state Office of Reapportionment show that Ward 4’s share of the city population is off by -7.78% standard deviation, or short by 310 people.

Ward 5

Ward 5, which has the city’s second-largest population at 4,184, also has the highest number of voting-age residents (3,035, or 72.54% of ward residents). Ward 4’s population shows a standard deviation of 4.97%, or 198 people.

Here are the current population figures by ward that the city has issued:

Why are the maps changing?

The city did not redraw the maps after the Census data came out in 2021. With the November 7 election coming up, time is running out to get the districts redrawn in time for the upcoming municipal election. And the city has to change the maps in order to stay in line with federal voting rights law. Otherwise, it could be open to a civil rights suit in federal court, and that could cost taxpayers a lot of money.

On July 17, according to a city press release, the council “voted to approve moving forward with the charter amendment process to provide for new ward lines. Municipal charters may be amended by ordinances duly adopted at two regular consecutive meetings of the municipal governing authority, not less than seven nor more than 60 days apart. The final adoption of the charter amendment will occur on August 21, 2023.”

The city is encouraging residents to come to the town hall meeting, to ask questions about changes to ward districts, and to find out whether they will be in a new ward. The meeting is free of charge—it’s a public meeting about your voting rights—and you have the right to be there and to ask any questions you might have.

Here’s a look at the proposed changes:

And here’s how the current ward map looks (use the +/- signs in the frame below to zoom in and out to your street; click on the map and scroll to move around):

Gains and losses by ward

Here’s how the city says each ward will change. Specifically, it indicates which new streets will go into each ward (gains) and which will be placed into other wards (losses).

Ward 1 Changes

Ward 2 Changes

Ward 3 Changes

Ward 4 Changes

Ward 5 Changes

For more information, you can call Interim City Clerk Michelle Williams at (404) 366-4720, then press option 1 on the main menu.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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