On Tuesday, August 2nd, the County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to direct staff to come up with a County redistricting map that would include one district with a population that had a majority of minorities. This would enable a minority candidate to break through the all-white, all-Republican blockade of access to the Board.
The current crop of Supervisors are all white, all Republican, and have been on the Board for 16 to 18 years each. This scenario is what prompted last year’s successful passage of a term-limits measure for the Board.
There has only been one minority on the Board, Leon Williams, the lone African American to serve, who was elected in 1982.
Going into Tuesday, the Supes were getting ready to approve the boundaries of new districts drawn up by their own advisory panel. And if they had approved it, there would have been no change in the dominance that the Supes held in their respective districts. But they were faced with minority spokespeople and the ACLU – all who were objecting to these boundaries – and threatening a suit over a violation of the Civil Rights Act.
Supervisor Greg Cox stepped up to the moment as he declared:
“I will not support a redistricting plan that is not in conformance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
This was a major victory for the ACLU which had proposed their own map of new boundaries. They had contended that the County’s proposed boundaries would have forced a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it would have diluted minority voting power. It would have, for example, pushed Mexican-Americans and Blacks in the South Bay into a district with central San Diego and the mostly white coastal neighborhoods.
ACLU lawyers contended that the county proposal would have resulted in an illegal dilution of minority voting power because it would unite Latinos and African Americans in the South Bay and central San Diego with coastal communities that contain larger concentrations of white voters. The two minority groups would make up 48.8 percent of the district’s citizen voting-age population.
In contrast, the new proposed boundaries would fasten Ocean Beach, Point Loma, other beach neighborhoods and Coronado with northern coastal communities into a new District 3 (OB and Point Loma are currently split up into 2 different districts), and unite City Heights with National City and Chula Vista, paving the way for a new district that is 45.9 % Mexican-American and 8.4 % African-American.
Lori Shellenberger, an attorney with the ACLU, said:
“Now, for the first time in decades, people of color in the county have a real shot at electing a candidate that represents their interests.”
Other critics of the Board’s original proposal – including Rev. Gerald W. Brown of Christ Church of San Diego – had in the not too recent past, accused the Board of racial gerrymandering in the once-a-decade district redrawing currently going on.
The ACLU proposed map also places most of the entire east San Diego County into one district. Right now, that area is in two districts.
The Board will present the new redrawn map at a special meeting September 6, 2011.
Here is the U-T article by Christopher Cadelago.