In historic vote, O.C. supervisors approve majority-Latino district for five-member board

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In a historic vote, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Monday created a majority-Latino district for the first time, giving power to Asian voters.

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The lines for the supervisory districts, redrawn once a decade after the national census, have long been drawn in such a way that Latinos are difficult to be selected, despite the rapid growth of the ethnic group. .

It’s been 15 years since a Latino representative came to the five-member board, which oversees a budget of about $7.7 billion.

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Many advocates celebrated the vote on Monday afternoon, saying it was a seismic change that could help Latinos choose candidates who can advocate for issues important to their communities, including housing and healthcare. are – needs that have been highlighted by the pandemic.

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“It’s a long time coming,” said Thomas Sainz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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The map places Costa Mesa in the same district as its neighbor Newport Beach. Another map in question had separated the two cities by deep ties, including a shared school district, leading to accusations of gerrymandering to shut down Democrats.

That map would have put Democrat observer Katrina Foley, who lives in Costa Mesa, at a disadvantage.

Now, Foley, who is white, has a good chance of winning re-election next year. Until then, she is in the odd position of representing the majority Latino district in which she does not live.

Still, the final map shows three of the five districts as majority Republicans, despite GOP registration in the county, said ACLU staff attorney Julia Gomez.

Gómez called the creation of the Latino-majority district “a huge victory” for the county. But he also alleged that the southern part of the county was cordoned off in a way that diminished the influence of Democratic voters.

“So, it’s really a partial victory for the community members,” she said.

Gomez said it could open Orange County to a legal challenge. She declined to say whether the ACLU was considering filing a lawsuit.

The final map, called 5A1, was drawn by supervisor Doug Chaffee, who along with Foley is one of two Democrats on the majority-republican board.

Chaffee, who is white, based her map on a proposal from the Orange County Civic Engagement Table, which aims to promote civic engagement in communities of color and includes Asian American, Pacific Islander, Latino, labor and environmental advocates.

The map, which was approved by a 3–2 vote with dissenting Republican observers Andrew Doe and Don Wagner, creates a district in which approximately 63% of voting-age residents are Latino. This includes the heavily Latino parts of Santa Ana and Anaheim, Garden Grove, Tustin and Orange.

The district will be represented by Foley until next year’s election.

The map also draws a second district where 42% of voters are Latino.

Advocates say the two Latino-heavy districts could inspire greater political participation and higher voter turnout from Latinos throughout the county.

“Groups that consistently see their candidates lose — sometimes people in that group lose interest in participating in elections, and that contributes to low turnout,” Sainz said. “This will be an important part of engaging the Latino community as a whole in Orange County.”

In another district – which includes Fountain Valley, Midway City, Westminster and a portion of Garden Grove – 33% of voters are Asian American.

But the map splits voters in Irvine — one of the fastest-growing cities in the county and one with a growing Asian American and Democratic electorate — between the two districts.

Orange County hasn’t been majority white in nearly 20 years and has become politically diverse.

The county, once a bastion of conservatism, has turned purple, voting twice against Donald Trump and against the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom in September. The population is 38% White, 34% Latino and 22% Asian, with more registered Democrats than Republicans.

But, as is often the case, for rising ethnic groups political power has lagged behind their demographic strength. The board currently has three white members and two Asian Americans. It has been a majority Republican for decades.

Unlike Los Angeles County, which submitted this year’s redistribution to an independent commission, Orange County observers themselves had the final say on the outline of the districts they would represent if they seek re-election.

Monday’s vote followed nearly a month of meetings, in which observers reviewed maps submitted by the public, made amendments to create a new set of maps, and then made further changes.

Last week, the board narrowed down its options to five proposals based on two primary maps.

Du, who considered the other primary map, alleged that a competitive alternative was devised to take power away from Republicans.

He took issue with critics who accused him of preparing his map to protect the Republican majority.

“Don’t come here and put a map in front of us with this expressed desire and primary goals and then turn my thought process around by calling it political and gaslighting me,” said Doe, who is Asian American.

Observer Lisa Bartlett, a Republican who is Asian American, supported the map to be passed. He said that it is not in favor of any political party.

She supported it because it brought together many cities in South Orange County with similar populations and shared issues. She said the map also placed more cities within the same district.

Foley said the final map was the “lesser of two evils”. The second option would have placed him in a district that was not up for re-election by 2024, essentially removing him from the board.

“I represent all of Orange County,” she said. “That’s what I’ve said from the beginning, and at this point, they’re giving me the chance to do it. I’m going to be the best Supervisor Santa Ana has ever had.”

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