Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 – 12:00 am

Los Angeles County is home to more than a quarter of California’s population, and nearly 60 percent of its residents are Latino.

However, just one of the county’s five supervisors is Latino, and Gloria Molina was elected to the board 22 years ago only because the U.S. Justice Department interceded in redistricting and declared that not creating a Latino seat would violate the Voting Rights Act.

After the 2010 census confirmed that Latinos are a strong majority of the county’s residents, Molina and the board’s only black member, Mark Ridley-Thomas, pressed their colleagues to create another Latino seat.

That, however, would have disrupted the board’s ethnopolitical status quo – one Latino seat, one black seat, one white Jewish seat and two white Republican seats, and none of the other three was willing to make the change.

Ultimately, therefore, the board adopted a plan that only slightly changed the existing boundaries, much to the dismay of Latino-rights activists who argued that by the numbers, they should have another slot on the powerful board.

Ever since, they have been pressing the Justice Department to intervene again, but curiously, it has stalled. The 1991 intervention came from a Republican administration, but the Obama administration has been less willing to challenge Los Angeles County – even though it has brought high-profile Voting Rights Act cases against redistricting plans and voting laws enacted in red states such as Texas.

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