Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 – 7:46 am

When California’s new redistricting commission was divvying up the state’s 38 million residents among 177 legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts in 2011, the federal Voting Rights Act loomed large.

Why it did requires a bit of historical background.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was aimed at correcting the systematic exclusion of blacks from voting in Southern states.

It used a formula, having to do with racial and ethnic populations and voting patterns, to identify states and localities whose electoral practices would be overseen by the U.S. Justice Department.

Four California counties – Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba – fell into the category due to the formula.

Why? All four were and are rural with relatively small populations, and relatively large nonwhite – mostly Latino – populations. But the decisive factor was that all had large military installations.

Most of the personnel at Lemoore Naval Air Station, Castle Air Force Base, Fort Ord and Beale Air Force Base were really residents of other states, but the census counted them as residents of those four counties. Therefore they figured into – and skewed – the VRA formula.

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