Redistricting: Battle over new county electoral lines faces key vote
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on what the new electoral district lines will look like. Three maps have been submitted to the board, and the supervisors need a four-member supermajority to adopt one.
The supervisors are essentially facing one question: whether to create a new Latino majority district or leave the boundaries more or less the same. From our editorial, "Give redistricting a little respect":
Currently, only one of the five supervisorial districts has a voting population that is more than 50% Latino -- and, perhaps as a result, only one of the five supervisors is Latino -- even though Latinos account for 34% of the county's voting-age citizens (and nearly half of its total population).
This year, the supervisors are split over whether the rapid growth of the Latino community during the last decade requires them to create a second Latino-majority district. Supervisors Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas both believe it does and have proposed maps that create one. Supervisor Don Knabe has proposed a map that would essentially retain the current districts.
In 1990, the board was sued under the federal Voting Rights Act, and a new Latino district was created in what is now the 1st District, represented by Molina.
There is a good chance the battle over redistricting will again be decided by a court. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has said it will sue unless a second Latino majority district is created.
A court will have to decide whether "racially polarized" voting exists in the county and whether Latinos' voting strength has been illegally diluted, preventing them from electing candidates of their choosing. If the court agrees with MALDEF, Molina and Ridley-Thomas that racially polarized voting and other problems exist, then the Voting Rights Act would require that a second Latino seat be created that is both compact and contiguous. To determine that, the court must conduct a complicated calculation that could require scrutiny of past elections, and if the court reaches that conclusion, then residents of Los Angeles would do well to support the decision.
Take a look at what the supervisors will be voting on and let us know what you think:
Photo: Board member Gloria Molina. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times