L.A. Voters Fight ‘Racial Gerrymandering’

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Five voters, including former Republican Congressman George Radanovich, say California’s redrawing of three congressional districts favors incumbents and deprives minorities of the opportunity “to elect candidates of choice.”
     Radanovich, 56, is lead plaintiff in the federal complaint against California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and the Citizens Redistricting Commission. He claims the newly drawn 37th, 43rd and 44th districts violate residents’ rights under the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.
     “These numerous violations have resulted in depriving African-American, Latino and Asian voters the opportunity to elect candidates of choice,” according to the complaint.
     The 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, of five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents, took over redistricting powers from the Legislature after voters approved Proposition 11 in 2008.
     According to the complaint: “The African-American Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) in L.A. County has seen a steady decline during the last 30 years to the point where it currently stands at 8.2 percent and cannot currently justify three congressional districts.”
     But rather than redistrict to concentrate African-Americans in one or two districts, the Commission opted for three “diluted” districts instead. That narrows the chances of an African-American representative winning election in those districts “during the next decade,” according to the complaint.
     “It is clear by simply looking at the 37th, 43rd and 44th Congressional district lines that compactness was of no regard. In addition, there nothing contiguous about the way the African-American community in the 37th and 43rd districts is cut in half by the Commission. The compactness and contiguity of that community has been ignored. In that same vein, any respect for the African-American community in these districts as a political subdivision has also been ignored. Dividing the African American community in this manner does nothing to forward or respect the historically traditional criteria of districting and unconstitutionally dilutes the African-American vote in the Congressional Districts in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and the VRA,” the complaint states.
     The voters accuse the Commission of bowing to public pressure to disenfranchise the black population in the three districts.
     “The Commission received extensive testimony from the public to retain the 37th Congressional District as a diluted African American CVAP district. Testimony was received advocating spreading out and thereby diluting the African-American population between the three districts. Retaining these three African-American districts would prove to be problematic due to the decline of the African-American population of Los Angeles County. In order to retain these three districts an awkward racial gerrymander of South and Southwestern Los Angeles County was required,” the complaint states.
     The voters claim the Commission’s redistricting had a “ripple effect,” resulting in “racial gerrymandering in other communities throughout the state of California.”
     “The effect being to fracture the representation of many cities and communities outside the African American population core. It also denied the creation of additional effective Latino Congressional districts. The purpose of this was to preclude the establishment of a single section two district which would have collapsed one or possibly more incumbent member’s districts. Based upon that record it is abundantly clear that the three districts with 30 percent African-American CVAP in each district was the primary reason for the lines being drawn. The impact of this gerrymandering caused the loss of an additional Latino majority district.”
     The plaintiffs want special masters appointed to draw new lines for the three districts at issue, costs, and an injunction against the lines as drawn.
     They are represented by Steven Barci of Irvine and Paul Sullivan of Washington, D.C.

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