Minority Communities Condemn County Redistricting Decisions

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An Orange County redistricting map proposal

 

An Orange County redistricting map proposal

The Alliance for Justice on Thursday, issued the following press release condeming the Orange County redistricting outcomes as unfair, as well as the process.

Puerto Rican, Latino and Black activists have gathered tonight to form a new alliance to ensure representation for their communities and welcome participation by others. In the wake of the vote of the Redistricting Advisory Committee appointed by the County Commission of Orange County, which tonight voted to diminish the votes of minorities and their rights to representation organizers expressed their disgust with both the process and the outcome. Three plans were advanced Wednesday for possible consideration by the County Commission. All of them diminished the voting strength of Hispanic and Black citizens in plans to redistrict the County of Orange in the wake of the Census of 2010.

The law requires the County to redistrict so that the voting districts represent citizens in equal numbers. Growth required that the District lines which existed in 2002 be revised to reflect the current population which has grown and shifted to new areas of the County. Because of the extraordinary rise in the number of Hispanic residents in Orange County, Hispanic and Black residents had worked together to ensure that maps could be considered which allowed for both communities to be ensured that they made up a solid majority of the voting age population in at least two districts. This would allow each of these minority communities to expect a representative at the table in County Government.

Alliance members had expected to see maps adopted which would have supported this concept of fair minority representation. Though the members of the committee appointed by the County Commissioners had not developed fair minority plans themselves, members of the public had submitted at least four plans which provided for strong Black and Hispanic districts. The alliance found significant flaws with both the process to date and its outcome.

Process flaws

District Representatives appointed to the Committee by Commissioners and the County Mayor were not representative of the Districts – None of the Hispanic representatives lived in Hispanic neighborhoods and at least three of the Members of the Committee are also paid and registered lobbyists. No member of the Committee lived in the proposed Hispanic District recommended by the public plans.

The Chairman of the Committee tonight directed a voting process which was unknown to the public until it was unveiled at the meeting – The process involved two rounds of secret voting and no Board discussion of the merits of the plans. The first round eliminated all but one Public plan which would have allowed for the proposed minority Districts and the second round of voting eliminated that remaining plan.

The Committee adopted for further work three plans which were presented within the last three weeks after all rounds of public field hearings had been concluded. Alliance members said that this was a break of faith as the public had only minutes to see the statistics associated with plans which were only presented last week.

Outcomes Deeply Flawed

Public plan E (the only plan which provided for a Hispanic Majority District to advance through the first cut), which was offered originally by Mr. Rucker, failed in the second round of voting, crushing the hopes of Black Community representatives for a stronger Black majority in District 6 along with Hispanic leaders hopes for District 3.

Two of the plans which did advance were offered by representatives of Commissioner Lui Damiani, who last year was appointed to replace Mildred Fernandez, the only Hispanic Commissioner. Though Damiani’s District 3 was the most Hispanic of all Districts in the recent census, his representatives offered only plans which sharply cut Hispanic representation and voted strongly to oppose Districts allowing for a Hispanic majority District 3.

All three of the Committee approved plans cut the Voting Age Population of District 6, the Black Majority District below the legal requirement that the District retain a majority of voting age blacks.

Hispanic and Black leaders noted that both of those populations had increased much more than the White population of the County and that the enormous increase in Hispanic residents had been completely ignored.

The Community leaders also noted that strong public support for a new Hispanic Majority District to represent the expressed at all public hearings had been ignored while the Committee protected the desires of isolated rural communities.

Conclusion

Hispanic and Black leaders promised to carry the battle to the County Commission and the Courts as they saw unfair outcomes and unfair process in the Committee. They called upon the Community to especially condemn the self-serving manipulation of the process by the members appointed by Commissioner Lui Damiani who advocated for denial of minority representation. The public is urged to call the office of Teresa Jacobs and other Commissioners, especially Comm. Damiani, and Comm. Edwards and to demand that the plans be changed to allow for fair minority representation.

By Doug Head

The Alliance for Justice

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