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As far back as we can remember, Los Angeles County supervisors have drawn the boundaries of their own districts.

In the 1980s, the all-white council was not inclined to create a district favoring a Latino candidate.

It was only after a trial that Gloria Molina became the first Latino supervisor in 1991.

This year, for the first time, an independent commission will decide which parts of the county will be regrouped with the aim of electing a five-member council that sometimes goes under the radar but controls a vast bureaucracy and a budget of $ 36 billion for the the most populous county in the country.

After more than a dozen public hearings in the county, the 14-member commission has narrowed its options to three cards and is expected to pick one by December 15, in a redistribution process that occurs once a decade after the US census.

Each map would create a second district with a large population of Latino voters, in addition to the district won by Molina, who is now represented by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis.

But black and Asian voters would be grouped differently on each map, in a county that is 49% Latino, 26% White, 15% Asian, and 9% Black, affecting the political power of each constituency and coming under scrutiny. from the defenders.

The commission was created by state law passed in 2016 that aimed to give Latino and Asian residents a better chance of representation on the LA County Oversight Board.

LA County continued, saying a law targeting a single county violated the state’s Constitution, but lost on appeal last year.

“It took a trial to elect the first Latino supervisor, and it took state law to change this broken system where a few powerful protect the status quo over the will of millions of voters,” the commissioner said. Insurance Ricardo Lara, who drafted the bill as a state senator, said in a statement. “Representation matters, and my motivation was for the line-drawing process to reflect the diversity of the country’s largest county, including our Asian American residents. ”

The three proposed cards could still be adjusted before the December 15 deadline.

One of the maps concentrates many black and Latino voters in the 2nd arrondissement, now represented by supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and previously by Mark Ridley-Thomas, both black.

Another proposed map extends District 2 to the ocean, grouping southern LA with coastal communities, arguably diluting black voices and making it harder for a black candidate to win.

Community Coalition, which is based in South LA and advocates for both black and Latino residents, is among groups supporting a third map that would leave District 2 with around 30% black voters.

This map, which evolved from a map submitted by a coalition of nearly 30 community organizations called the People’s Block, would transform Supervisor Janice Hahn’s 4th district into a second Latin district.

The seaside towns of Marina del Rey in Long Beach that Hahn now represents would join Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s 3rd District, creating a coastal strip extending north past Malibu to the Ventura County line.

The revamped 4th arrondissement would include strongly Latin American communities, including South Gate, Huntington Park and Lynwood, which are now part of the 1st or 2nd arrondissements.

According to this proposal, around 56% of voters in the 4th arrondissement would be Latin American.

Solis 1st District would contain around 51% Latino voters, as well as 26% Asian voters with the addition of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights and Diamond Bar.

“For us, the value at the heart of it all is ensuring that the most disenfranchised communities and their voices are heard throughout this process,” said Hector Sanchez, deputy director of Community Coalition, who helped to organize People’s Bloc.

Some argue that over the past three decades the First District has grown to be Latino so much that some Latino voters would have to be split into another district to offer a better chance of electing a second Latino supervisor – a goal that would be achieved by the map inspired by the popular Bloc plan.

“Some of this population could be shared with another district and possibly linked to other significant concentrations of Latino populations in the county to draw two effective Latino districts,” said Arturo Vargas, general manager of the NALEO Educational Fund, which facilitates political participation of Latinos. .

The 2nd arrondissement has also become more and more Latin. But supporters argue that drawing the lines to make it the second Latino majority district unites black and Latino voters, while they believe the 4th district is a better option for concentrating Latino voters.

LA County has never had an Asian supervisor, in part because Asian voters are concentrated in geographically very remote areas.

Manjusha P. Kulkarni, executive director of the Asia-Pacific Policy and Planning Council, said she wanted to overcome previous redistribution disputes between Asians and Latinos.

“It’s against each other fighting for the crumb, and we’re not ready to do that this time around,” she said.

Rather than aiming for a district favorable to the election of an Asian supervisor, Kulkarni’s group wants to see Asian communities, such as Little Tokyo and Chinatown, come together to increase their political clout.

For supervisors, redistributing lines could drastically change their constituencies and potentially even land them in another district.

The map concentrating many black and Latino voters in District 2 would place Mitchell’s central Los Angeles home slightly outside his current district and in Hahn’s 4th District.

That same card also places Kuehl, who lives in Santa Monica, in the 4th arrondissement – but she is not running for re-election.

Under the map of the coastal towns of the 3rd arrondissement, Hahn’s residence in San Pedro would remain in the 4th. But many other aspects of his job – and potentially his chances of re-election – would change.

“There are going to be millions of voters in LA County who wake up on Dec. 16 being represented by a supervisor they didn’t vote for – and that’s a real challenge,” Hahn said in a statement. communicated. “While I will miss working with and representing Beach Cities if they are moved out of my district, I respect this independent redistribution commission and the work they do to draw districts as fair as possible. “

Some former supervisors defended the old method of redistribution, arguing that they had in-depth knowledge of their constituents and how best to bring together those with common interests.

Ridley-Thomas, who represented District 2 from 2008-2020, said state lawmakers took redistribution out of the hands of supervisors because they resented the power of supervisors.

He has pleaded not guilty to federal conspiracy, bribes and other charges stemming from actions he took while serving on the supervisory board. In October, his LA City Council colleagues suspended him from his post.

Former 4th District Supervisor Don Knabe, who served from 1996 to 2016, said he and his colleagues were held accountable by “communities of interest,” including those linked by ethnic, economic commonalities. or others.

“Gerrymandering [was] probably still possible, but not without a lot of yelling and remarks about what they’re trying to do, ”he said.

The 14-member Redistribution Commission was selected from 741 nominations, which were reduced to 60 by the Los Angeles County Registrar.

Eight commissioners were then randomly selected using a bingo cage in a process broadcast live on Facebook.

In public meetings, the eight commissioners chose six colleagues who they believed best reflected the geographic, political, racial and ethnic diversity of LA County.

The committee, which is entirely voluntary, is co-chaired by attorney Daniel M. Mayeda and Carolyn Williams, certified life and executive coach. It has six women and eight men.

Seven commissioners are Democrats, three are Republicans and four are not registered with any of the parties.

Six are Latino, four are white, two are Asian and Pacific American Islanders, and two are black.

Members are prohibited from communicating with supervisors as well as with families and employees of supervisors.

Mayeda said the commissioners were aware of the complexity of the task at hand.

Under federal and state laws, each district should have roughly the same number of residents, and cities should remain in the same district whenever possible, as should neighborhoods and communities with common interests. Districts must also be contiguous and must be compact.

Federal voting rights law requires that the lines be drawn so that racial and ethnic groups have a fair chance to elect a candidate of their choice.

“It’s kind of a Matrix or Rubik’s Cube – you change one thing and you mess up the other,” Mayeda said. “That’s the challenge.”

The committee will meet again at least twice and then choose a final map by December 15.

Many people involved in the new process hope it will break the cycle of the powerful perpetuating their own power.

“Redistribution is when leaders choose their constituents. That’s the old adage,” said José Del Río III, local redistribution advocate at the non-partisan nonprofit California Common Cause. is the only thing we want to prevent. “

Los Angeles Times

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