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.