Redistricting Concerns Generate Contention
• Maps Decried as Gerrymandering
BY BILL KOENEKER
While much has been written and commented upon on the statewide redistricting, the redistricting of the county, which is done by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, has remained quiet until recently when a fight has broken out between some board members.
Like the state and federal governments, counties must redraw their district boundaries every ten years to conform to the results of the U.S. Census.
However, there is a difference between the recently completed state and federal redistricting, which were performed by citizen's commissions and the county's redistricting, which is carried out by the board. The supervisors will hold a hearing on the proposed redistricting plans on Tuesday, Sept. 6, in downtown Los Angeles.
Three proposed maps were each submitted last week by Supervisor Don Knabe, Supervisor Gloria Molina and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. In the words of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky Molina's or Ridley-Thomas' plans would "radically redraw the Board of Supervisors' district boundaries, leaving communities fragmented and an estimated 3.5 million people suddenly represented by a supervisor for whom they never cast a vote."
Molina, on her website, said both new maps create two Latino-majority districts while simultaneously ensuring that all other minority groups' voting powers remain protected.
Ridley-Thomas, in a press release, said, "I have maintained from the start of the redistricting process that our top priority as a Board must be to adhere to federal standards, including the Voting Rights Act requirements. These requirements were not created abstractly to promote the political dominance of our interest group at the expense of other groups, but to serve all voters fairly. That the maps submitted by Supervisor Molina and myself result in the creation of Latino-opportunity voting districts is purely a consequence of our commitment to abide by the civil rights laws that undergrid our representative democracy and that have made our county better."
Molina added, "Compare them to the map recommended by the Boundary Review Committee. Either [my] or Ridley-Thomas' proposal would best fulfill not just the letter, but the spirit of the Voting Rights Act."
However, Yaroslavsky alleged in his blog, the proposed mapping is "a bald-faced gerrymander that is completely unnecessary."
"The primary objective of redistricting," said Molina, on her website. "Is to ensure every district represents the same amount of people. But this goal cannot legally be accomplished by diluting the strength of minority voters. It's a particularly important requirement since L.A. County has an unfortunate, extensive and documented history of voter discrimination-specifically against Latinos."
Yaroslavsky, who is currently in his final term as supervisor, said he has no personal interest in the electoral composition, "even if, for my term's duration I would no longer represent communities I've been honored to serve for nearly two decades.
"However, I am utterly convinced that these redistricting schemes would significantly injure our ability to fight together," he said.
He cites, for example, the San Fernando Valley, would be carved into three different districts. Hollywood and mid-Wilshire, meanwhile could be included in a district with such distant cities as Lomita and Cerritos.
"Our new maps simply follow the numbers," said Supervisor Molina. "By doing so, our new maps honor both the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. If approved either new map will ensure that no minority group's voting power is unfairly enhanced or diluted at the expense of another. Our new maps simply follow the law and the legal precedent."
Ridley-Thomas' proposed map, submitted as the "African-American Coalition Map," moves the eastern San Fernando Valley into the first district, connecting it with downtown Los Angeles and unincorporated East Los Angeles. It also designates the I-605 corridor portion of the San Gabriel Valley as the fourth district.
The map also includes a coastal district that runs from Malibu through Long Beach to Cerritos
Molina's proposed map submitted as the "Voting Rights Compliance Map" is similar to the coalition map, leaving the second and fifth supervisory districts largely unchanged. It does propose dramatic changes elsewhere. The third district would stretch from the San Fernando Valley jus west of the I-405 through Eagle Rock and downtown Los Angeles as far sough as Lynwood and include communities to the west of the I-710.
"The county's redistricting plan must adhere to the Federal voting rights act," Yaroslvasky said. "Both of the proposed maps create two districts in which Latinos would comprise more than half the voting age citizens, instead of one such district now, but contrary to the arguments put forward by supporters of the proposed maps, their adoption is not required by this law. The Voting Rights Act requires an equal opportunity for minority groups, it does not require the creation of districts in which a single minority group comprises more than 50 percent of the voting age citizenry."