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Board of Supervisors vote against second Latino majority district

10/5/2011, 5 p.m.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 last week to approve a redistricting plan that leaves boundaries largely unchanged and does not create a second Latino-majority district.

Supervisor Gloria Molina was the sole vote against the plan recommended by the county's Boundary Review Committee (BRC), also called A3.

Both Molina and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had submitted alternative proposals, each of which would create a second, Latino-majority district in the county.

But Ridley-Thomas ultimately voted to support the BRC's plan after the two alternatives were defeated.

If the board had been unable to muster the four votes needed to approve any of the plans, the decision, by law, would have been made by a committee comprised of District Attorney Steve Cooley, County Assessor John Noguez and Sheriff Lee Baca.

Ridley-Thomas and his colleagues wanted to avoid that. That was one reason he voted with colleagues to approve A3.

"Rather than put (redistricting) into an untested, uncertain, potentially quite partisan arena," he said, "it's better to put it in a much more appropriate place, the courts," which is where Ridley-Thomas said he believed the matter would ultimately be decided.

On that issue, he and Molina seem to agree. As Molina made the case for her alternative redistricting map, she referred repeatedly to Garza vs. the County of Los Angeles, which generated a 1990 ruling that the Latino community had been denied an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and forced the county to redraw its district boundaries. Those maps resulted in Molina's election as the board's first Latina representative.

Molina insisted the board had an "obligation" to create a second Latino majority district in Los Angeles County to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.

"It was predictable for this board," Molina said, referring to the final vote, "which is very unfortunate. I thought that we put a very compelling case before them."

An estimated 1,300 Angelenos turned out to support their favorite among the competing plans to redraw the county's five supervisorial districts. More than 900 signed up to speak. Overflow crowds were seated in rooms around the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration and in folding chairs under a tent outside, waiting their turn.

The county is required to redraw boundaries once every 10 years to reflect U.S. Census data. The 2010 federal count showed that Latinos make up 48 percent of the county population, up from 45 percent in 2000, and more than a third of the county's potential voters.

Many from the Latino community argued that the A3 map maintains a status quo that disenfranchises them as voters. They recalled a time, before the Voting Rights Act led to more Latino elected officials, when many of their needs--for healthcare, transportation and public safety--went unmet.

But those opposed to the creation of a second Latino-majority district argued that race should not be the basis for drawing districts and that Molina and Ridley-Thomas' proposals would destroy other important communities of interest and relationships that have been cultivated over many years.