The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

November 30, 2013

Latinos want U.S. to sue over LA supervisors' board

(Continued)

The suits were filed under other provisions of the voting rights law that were not part of the Supreme Court case.

The situation in Los Angeles County predates the high court decision and the passage of the laws now being challenged in North Carolina and Texas.

The Justice Department acknowledges it is looking at the situation in Los Angeles, but otherwise declined comment.

“We have received significant amounts of information from the county and others about the issue and the matter is still under review,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson.

Matt Barreto, a political science professor and voting rights expert at the University of Washington, said the evidence against the county is overwhelming and includes a history of racially polarized voting that has hurt Latinos.

“My perspective is that this is one of the easiest cases to be made nationally,” said Barreto, who has worked for the group of Latinos that includes Reynoso. Barreto also served as a consultant to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a voter-approved independent board that draws the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

Counties, though, retain the authority to devise their own districts. Nowhere is there more power and money at stake than in Los Angeles, where each of five supervisors represents nearly 2 million people and the county’s annual budget tops $26 billion.

Following the 2010 census, the board adopted districts in 2011 that made relatively few changes even though two supervisors cautioned that their colleagues were exposing themselves to a voting rights lawsuit.

Gloria Molina, the only Latina ever elected to the board, and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board’s lone African-American member, supported maps that would have created a second district with a majority of Latino residents. But the two members could not persuade their three white colleagues to join them.

“Today this board had an opportunity to make history, not repeat it, but all signs indicated that they would repeat history, and unfortunately, they did,” Molina said in 2011.

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