Thursday, October 29, 2020

Hispanics raise Concerns over Redistricting Maps at Hearings in California

Hispanic advocacy groups in California are urging Latino voters to attend public hearings and voice their concerns about proposed restricting maps unveiled earlier this month by a citizen panel appointed by the state.

At a recent hearing, two dozen residents voiced their concern over the impact the proposed maps by the Citizens Redistricting Commission could have on their community located in Orange County.  The proposed maps split up the Latino communities in Orange County into separate legislative districts.

“I really feel strongly that Anaheim and Santa Ana are intrinsically linked, both on a demographic level and a policy level,” said Christine Villegas of Anaheim.

Latino leaders say the new political maps stretch legislative districts making striking changes that will hurt Latino voters as a voting bloc and they do not create “opportunity” districts where voters could potentially elect a Latino to represent them.  According to the U.S. Census, Latinos accounted for well over half of the state’s population growth in the last decade.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has signaled it may take legal action under the 1965 Voting Rights Act if the final results aren’t adequate in representing the shift in population.

“We really believe that the maps proposed by the commission could seriously impair the future of Latino political progress,” Rosalind Gold, senior policy director at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, said. “Latinos accounted for 90 percent of the state’s population growth in the last decade, but we don’t think the maps reflect that.”

The commission, a 14-member panel of citizens appointed by the state and charged with redrawing voting districts, has heard dozens of speakers plead to keep central Orange County intact for demographic reasons.

“Everybody talks ethnicity, but I believe it’s the community of interest—that’s what binds you,” Democratic state Sen. Lou Correa of Anaheim, said. “The social economics, blue collar jobs, education challenges—those are the factors that could dictate.”

The debate will continue to escalate in the upcoming weeks as the commission will continue to takes public comments on the issue until August 15, when they will vote on the final map.