Every ten years, the US government does a full census count. Based upon the results of this census, many local governments redraw their district voting maps. In Orange County, redistricting occurred in 2011 and almost immediately, it drew the attention of many in the local Latino community. Represented by LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Hogan Lovells US LLP, lawsuits were filed alleging that the redistricting efforts illegally dilutes the Latino voting strength.
According to the lawsuit, here are the facts:
- Latinos represented 18.8% of the population in the 2000 census.
- Latinos represented 26.9% of the population in the 2010 census.
- Orange County has six districts.
- These districts are to represent as close to the same population as possible.
- After each census, the County Commissions may change the district territory.
- However, even though the number of Latinos has grown at an incredible rate in ten years, there is not one district that has a Latino-majority.
- District 3 could easily have a Latino-majority with a very simple change in the district lines.
- District 3 used to have enough Latinos to win seats and be represented, yet this district was redrawn to dilute the voting power of Latinos.
- There was a proposal for district 3 to have a Latino-majority, yet the county commissioners refused to adopt that specific proposal or any proposal that gave Latinos a majority district.
- As a result, no Latino currently sits on the Board of Commissioners.
- The Board of Commissioners is in charge of a five billion dollar county budget, which distributes educational monies, contract monies and social service monies.
- Without representation, the Latino community alleges they are being taxed without representation.
In addition, The PRLDEF asserts that the formerly strong African-American presence in District 6 was also diluted.
The lawsuit seeks a finding that the district maps were created so as to be discriminatory to Latino voters in Orange County. They also seek a change in the district voting maps to afford Latinos at least one district that comprises a Latino-majority and they also ask that no votes be considered valid until the district is redrawn in a way that is non discriminatory.
Orange County asked that the PRLDEF lawsuit be thrown out, yet in a recent ruling, a judge ruled against Orange County and stated that the lawsuit can proceed.
One option that Orange County is considering is adding two additional districts to the county. This means that instead of being a six district county, Orange County will become an eight district county. One advantage of an eight district county is that the district commissioners will have fewer people to represent, which means they could spend more time on their constituents. The eight district county would also likely have at least one minority-led district.
Other than the eight district proposal, which has not been accepted or approved, Orange County does not seem to be giving in at all. The PRLDEF is also prepared to take this matter all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary. This means that the issue will be decided in court and by the judge.