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Supervisors consider three redistricting plans

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 8/24/2011, 5:31 p.m.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m. at the Hall of Administration in downtown L.A. to discuss the three recommendations the panel is reviewing for redrawing the county's most powerful political districts.

The board has until the final day in September to adopt new boundary lines, and if that does not happen then three countywide elected officials--the sheriff, the assessor and the district attorney--will make up a committee that will have to approve the lines. This has never previously happened.

The three proposals the supervisors are currently reviewing include one from a Boundary Review Commission (A-2) that essentially keeps the districts lines as they are; the other two recommendation from Supervisors Gloria Molina (T-1) and Mark Ridley-Thomas (S-2) create two majority Latino districts and one with an African American plurality.

In the first two proposals, an estimated 3.5 million people would be shifted among the districts.

The second majority Latino districts, according to S-2 and T-1 would happen in the regions currently represented by Zev Yaroslavsky (third district) or Don Knabe (fourth district).

Yaroslavsky is completing his final term, and Knabe could run one final time before being termed out.

Molina and Ridley-Thomas, who are supporting one another's recommended maps, say a second majority Latino district is needed because Hispanics now comprise 48 percent of the county's population, about one-third of the voting-age residents.

They also note that in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA), there needs to be another majority Latino district.

Yaroslavsky counters that shifting more than 3 million people from one district is not needed and that the attempt to create an additional Latino majority district is a "bald-faced gerrymander."

The Third District Supervisor also said the Molina and Ridley-Thomas plans would leave communities in his district fragmented, and in some cases unable to vote for a supervisor for as long as six years, because of the timing of elections.

On his county website blog, Supervisor Knabe, says that the "fourth district is the most diverse in the county, with Whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans and many other minority groups. Under the plan I submitted, Latinos represent the largest population at 43 percent of our district."

Knabe says the county's independent legal counsel has determined that the plan submitted would fulfill the VRA requirement without the major boundary line adjustments called for by the two alternate plans.

The supervisor also stressed the need to keep communities of interest intact, one of the guidelines the Boundary Review Committee operated under as it drew its proposed map.

Twenty years ago the issue of Latino voting power was raised. The Mexican American Legal and Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union in a federal court lawsuit forced the county to change district lines in a way that created a majority Latino district, to which Molina was elected (District One).

Creating a second majority Latino district could significantly shift the makeup of the powerful Board of Supervisors, which represents more than 9.8 million people, and oversees a budget of $23 million.

The change could result in a board with a significantly different slant compared to the way it is now, noted one published report--a Westsider, a moderate Republican, a conservative Republican, an African American and a Latino.