La Opinión Calls for a Second Latino District in LA

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LOS ANGELES -- Latinos represent a high percentage of Los Angeles County’s population growth. This population expansion includes residents, citizens and registered voters, and should be reflected in a second majority district when the county’s political map is redrawn.

Unfortunately, three of the five county supervisors, Zev Yaroslavsky, Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, believe this increase is not significant, and that the map from 2000 does not need to change much to represent 2010’s population.

This is nothing more than a maneuver by the three supervisors to protect their own districts and political base from demographic changes. That is why this week they approved a redistricting map that only changes some aspects of two of the five districts: it adds Latinos to Gloria Molina’s 1st District and takes them out of Knabe’s neighboring 4th District, diluting the group’s power at the polls.

The county’s demographic changes were not limited to a small eastern part of the region, as the map drawn by a majority of the supervisors attempts to establish. The population shift occurred throughout the county, in some areas more and others less.

Consequently, about seven maps that establish two Latino-majority districts were presented, meeting all federal law requirements and protecting communities with common interests. Only one of them was approved as an alternative to the majority’s map in deciding the final demarcation.

Los Angeles County has more Latinos than people of any other race or ethnicity. The numbers and percentages show an enormous increase that can be seen, for example, in areas of the San Fernando Valley. That region has changed enough to become part of the new Latino-majority district. It is wrong to completely ignore this transformation in order to avoid disturbing the tranquility of Yaroslavsky and Antonovich, who would rather maintain an illusion demographics that no longer exist.

With their map, Antonovich, Knabe and Yaroslavsky are adversely affecting Latino voters by deliberately diluting their power at the polls. This is a damage that lasts a decade, which the electorate will not forget.

Twenty years ago, a costly lawsuit against the county was necessary to create the first Latino-majority district. Today, we hope the lesson from the past was learned, and there are enough votes to approve a second Latino-majority district.