SANTA ANA, CA -- Latino advocacy groups are alarmed about new political maps that sketch proposed boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts, saying the changes will disenfranchise the fastest-growing segment of the population in a state where the number of Latino politicians has soared during the past two decades, a local paper reports.
The citizens commission charged with drawing new political boundaries for seats in California's House of Representatives, state Legislature and Board of Equalization has extended the time it will accept written testimony on its first round of proposed maps. The Califonia Citizens Redistricting Commission announced the new date is next Tuesday, June 28th.
Since the commission released its draft earlier this month, advocacy groups have begun organizing their members and are urging Latino voters to attend public hearings in force to voice their concerns.
The proposed shift in districts could endanger the congressional seat of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, one of California's most prominent Latino lawmakers. Her victory in conservative Orange County almost 15 years ago signaled the rising power of the Latino electorate.
The draft maps also would dilute majority Latino voting populations in two state Senate districts currently held by Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, and Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. De Leon said he thought the commission had done a good job overall and will make needed changes before issuing its final maps in August.
In central Los Angeles County, "the minority districts were all pushed together," potentially forcing some Latino lawmakers to run against each other in the next election, said Steven Ochoa, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) national redistricting coordinator.
Several groups have submitted their own proposals, and MALDEF raised the possibility of legal action under the 1965 Voting Rights Act if it is not satisfied with the final results.
"We really believe that the maps proposed by the commission could seriously impair the future of Latino political progress," said Rosalind Gold, senior policy director at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. "Latinos accounted for 90 percent of the state's population growth in the last decade, but we don't think the maps reflect that."