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In landmark vote, OC supervisors endorse Latino Majority District for five-member board

In a landmark vote, the Orange County Board of Directors on Monday created a majority Latin American district while also giving power to Asian voters.

The boundaries of the wardens of the overseers, redone once a decade after the national census, have long been drawn in a way that makes it difficult to elect Latinos, despite the rapid growth of the ethnic group.

It’s been 15 years since there was a Latino representative on the five-member board, which oversees a budget of around $ 7.7 billion.

Many advocates celebrated the vote on Monday afternoon, saying it was a seismic shift that could help Latinos elect candidates who can champion issues critical to their communities, including housing and care. health – needs that have been highlighted by the pandemic.

“It has been a long time coming,” said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The map keeps Costa Mesa in the same neighborhood as its neighbor, Newport Beach. Another map under consideration had separated the two cities with deep ties, including a common school district, prompting allegations of gerrymandering to exclude Democrats.

This card would have put Supervisor Katrina Foley, a Democrat who lives in Costa Mesa, at a disadvantage.

Now Foley, who is white, has a good chance of being re-elected next year. Until then, she’s in the odd situation of representing a predominantly Latino neighborhood in which she doesn’t live.

Still, the final map makes three of the five majority Republican districts, despite the downward trend in GOP registration in the county, said Julia Gomez, staff attorney for the ACLU.

Gomez called the creation of a Latin American majority district a “big victory” for the county. But she also alleges that the southern part of the county has been gerrymandered in a way that reduces the influence of Democratic voters.

“So this is really a partial victory for the members of the community,” she said.

This could open Orange County to a court challenge, Gomez said. She declined to say if the ACLU was considering filing a complaint.

The final map, dubbed 5A1, was drawn by Supervisor Doug Chaffee, who, along with Foley, is one of two Democrats on the Republican-majority board.

Chaffee, who is white, based his card on a proposal from the Orange County Civic Engagement Table, which seeks to promote civic engagement in communities of color and includes advocates of Asian, Pacific Islander, Latin American, labor and environmental.

The card, which was approved by a 3-2 vote with dissenting Republican Supervisors Andrew Do and Don Wagner, creates a district in which nearly 63% of voting-age residents are Latinos. It includes Santa Ana and heavily Latin portions of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Tustin, and Orange.

This district will be represented by Foley until the election next year.

The map also creates a second district where 42% of voters are Latinos.

Advocates say the two high-density Latin American districts could spur greater political involvement and higher voter turnout for Latinos across the county.

“Groups that constantly see their candidates lose – sometimes members of that group lose interest in participating in elections, and that helps reduce turnout,” Saenz said. “It will be an essential part of the full integration of the Latino community in Orange County.”

In another district – which includes Fountain Valley, Midway City, Westminster and part of Garden Grove – 33% of voters are Asian Americans.

But the map divides voters in Irvine – one of the county’s fastest growing cities and one with a growing Asian-American and Democratic-American electorate – between two districts.

Orange County has not been predominantly white for nearly 20 years and has become increasingly politically diverse.

The county, once a bastion of conservatism, has turned purple, voting twice against Donald Trump and against the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom in September. The population is 38% white, 34% Latino, and 22% Asian, with more registered Democrats than Republicans.

But, as is often the case, the political power of growing ethnic groups has lagged behind their demographic strength. The board currently has three white members and two Asian Americans. He has been a majority Republican for decades.

Unlike Los Angeles County, which delegated this year’s redistribution to an independent commission, Orange County supervisors themselves have had the final say on the outlines of the districts they will represent if they seek to be. re-elected.

Monday’s vote wrapped up nearly a month of meetings where supervisors reviewed the cards submitted by the public, made revisions to create a new set of cards, and then made other changes to them.

Last week, the board narrowed its options down to five proposals, based on two main cards.

Do, who drew the other main map under consideration, alleged that the competing option was drawn in such a way as to take power away from the Republicans.

He took issue with critics who accused him of drawing his card to protect a Republican majority.

“Don’t come here and present us with a card with this express desire and these main goals, and then you turn around and enlighten me by calling my thought process political,” said Do, who is Asian American.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, an Asian American Republican, supported the adopted card. She said it was not drawn in a way that favors a political party.

She supported him because he kept many towns in southern Orange County with similar populations and common issues. The map also kept more entire cities in a single district, she said.

Foley said the final card was the “lesser of two evils.” The other option would have placed her in a district that was not eligible for re-election until 2024, essentially removing her from the board.

“I represent all of Orange County,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been saying from the start, and at this point they’re giving me the opportunity to do it. I’m going to be the best supervisor Santa Ana has ever had.

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