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County Approves Redistricting Plan, Lawsuit Likely

The County Board of Supervisors approved a redistricting that would stick closely to established electoral boundaries, but one supervisor appeared to be voting in favor of the plan to expedite a lawsuit that could ultimately decide the county boundaries.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a redistricting plan on Tuesday that opponents say violates federal voting laws, but it appears that one board member who voted for the plan is actually hoping to see the issue decided in court.

The plan that the board passed, called the 'A3' plan, will minimize the movement of communities from one Board of Supervisor district to another, keeping the electoral boundaries very close to how they are. Altadena will stay in its current supervisor district under the plan.

Opponents argued vociferously over months of public hearings that the plan would pack Latinos into one electoral district and pushed alternative plans that would create at least two districts where Latinos made up the majority of voters.  Those plans would have resulted in more than 3 million people being moved from one district to another, compared to around 200,000 for the 'A3' plan.

Tuesday's hearing included about six hours of public testimony, with advocates on every side of the issue and people from throughout the county showing up to advocate for their plan.  More than 800 people signed up to speak on the issue (though many did not end up hanging around long enough to do so) and one supervisor said it was the largest hearing turn-out he had ever seen.

In the initial votes for the three plans the Board was considering, all three failed to get the required votes, but then Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who had voted against the 'A3' plan, agreed to vote on it, in his words, to "expedite" a long-expected lawsuit on the issue.

"Regrettably I think ultimately we find ourselves in a circumstance where a federal court will likely determine whether a second effective district is in fact legally required," said Ridley-Thomas on Tuesday evening.  "So it’s my view in order to expedite that matter and to avoid further what is a potentially divisive delay and what I would consider the unnecessary gamble of the uncertainty of an untested appeals process, we ought to hasten getting to closure."

Supervisor Gloria Molina, the lone vote against the plan, released a statement following the hearing that praised Ridley-Thomas for forcing the issue.

"As [Ridley-Thomas] explained when he cast his final vote today, he still stands strongly by his S2 Map and my T1 Map," Molina wrote.  "His vote in support of the A3 Map was to expedite the matter, hasten its closure, and get us to a court ruling in order to have the Voting Rights Act complied with."

Although no group has stepped up and openly announced they plan to sue the county, various individuals and representatives of Latino advocacy groups have said at board meetings that they expect that the 'A3' plan will result in a lawsuit.

If the board had not come to an agreement on a plan, a committee made up of officials from the Sheriff's Department, Assessor's Office and District Attorney's office would have had the next try at passing a plan, which was the "untested appeals process" that Ridley-Thomas referred to before voting on the 'A3' plan.

Throughout the process, the Board has heard testimony from attorneys and political science professors that the 'A3' plan likely violates federal voting laws, but the attorney hired to examine the plans has repeatedly said she believes it does not.

The county previously lost a lawsuit on redistricting in 1990, when a case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, the ACLU and MALDEF resulted in the creation of the first-ever Latino majority district in the county.

Gregory Middleton September 28, 2011 at 02:26 PM
If Latinos make up the majority of the citizens, in at least two districts, why not use their majority voting power to elect a representative of choice rather than changing the electoral boundaries. If the issue is voting rights, people need to organize themselves and rally the people to come out and vote when the positions come up for re-election. What am I not understanding?
Dan Abendschein (Editor) September 28, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Greg - The redistricting process is required under federal law, so the county is legally bound to look at its electoral boundaries and adjust them for population growth/decrease. So it was inevitable, regardless of the opinion of Latino advocates, that the electoral boundaries would go through at least a minimal change. The county also has to consider whether its boundaries comply with federal law to not disenfranchise against any minority group - they can't just pass a plan that keeps the boundaries the same because people prefer it that way. The county's attorney says that the county has complied with federal law with this plan, and various private attorneys, most representing Latino advocacy groups, believe that they have not. If there is a lawsuit, as county officials believe there will be, we will find out one way or another. But just to be clear, this was not a process that was undertaken at the behest of any advocacy group - it was constitutionally required.
Gregory Middleton September 29, 2011 at 12:00 AM
Dan - Even though I watched some of the arguments, both pro and con on the broadcast, I still don’t understand the bottom line. Are we ultimately trying to make the system fair and just for all? Are we ultimately trying to do what is best for all Californians? When we speak of minorities are we speaking of race only, or the number of people of a certain persuasion in a particular area. For example whites could be a minority in South LA or Blacks could be the minority in West LA. I’m wondering if we are trying to legislate the hearts and minds of the people or, are we trying to respect the will of the majority of the people. Is this a racial issue without calling it a racial issue? The same thing happened with an attempt to pass affirmative action. When it is geared toward racial equality you step on the toes of the larger population and that will ultimately make it very unpopular. I’m full of questions, but not answers. This is not a simple decision.
navigio September 29, 2011 at 01:10 AM
often when the term 'minority' is used, its in the sense of historically discriminated against (racial or language?) subgroup. In other words, even when whites are a minority by numbers somewhere, they dont get the same protections because of the historical nature. i know a lot of people dont think this is fair, but the goal of those efforts is not simply to make things the same, it is to counter embedded discrimination. (if you study the issue a bit you'll be surprised where some of these things are embedded). I also think affirmative action is a bit more complex. the original goal of that effort was to create equality of opportunity in employment. the problem was, thats difficult of those trying to be employed didnt have the same opportunity for education, so in many places, the implementation extended to many other aspects of access than just employment. I also think in southern california, given our residence patterns, its almost impossible for cultural or geographic issues not to become racial ones. and i think for some people it will always explicitly be a racial one anyway. perspective comes in many different colored glasses... pun intended.. :-)
Dan Abendschein (Editor) September 29, 2011 at 04:30 PM
There is definitely nothing simple about it. I watched hours of testimony do think a lot of the people who were against the two Latino districts were kind of for the status quo because they felt it had worked so well - I think their fears that a new supervisor would not care about the issues the same way their current one did, or that a new district would ignore their issues were not really warranted. However, I think that either plan was complicated enough that they are hard to really analyze on their own merits.... the bottom line for me, watching this process, is that I just don't see how you make a truly representative board of 5 people to represent 10 million residents.
StayWoke September 29, 2011 at 07:16 PM
This is a very thorny issue indeed. With Asian communities growing at an ever increasing rate and as Richard Packard of the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the NAACP explained, "The proposed intrusion that's represented by S2 and T1 will divide the African-American majority voting bloc in the San Fernando Valley among three supervisorial districts as opposed to only two." Funny how the T1 & S2 maps would diminish the applicability of the Voting Rights Act to the community that was at its vanguard. It would be a shame to have African Americans disenfranchised by the very act they were at the forefront of bringing about. Kinda' like European American women being the primary beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. Ahh, the law of unintended consequences!
navigio September 29, 2011 at 09:07 PM
..or like african american community groups being one of the primary reasons many states have the right to education in their constitutions... or the efforts to desegregate schools causing increased segregation... or attempts at accountability and school choice, intended to make schools better, actually making them worse... this cockamamie world is just chock full o' ironies... ;-)

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