Latino, Asian American, LGBTQ activists: They want to shape California’s congressional maps

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Activists are urging the creation of a congressional district that links LGBTQ populations in Long Beach and coastal northern Orange County. Civil rights groups say the plan to split the Los Angeles-area district — the heaviest Latino in the country — violates the Voting Rights Act. Asian Americans have warned that a proposal to cut the San Gabriel Valley into pieces would undermine their voices at a time of horrific violence against their community.

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These are some of the concerns that an independent state commission is weighing in on the race to redraw Congressional districts once-every-decade until Christmas.

“Our goal is unbiased maps, and fair maps means that we must follow the process that is before us, that we do it in a transparent manner and that the public is meaningfully engaged and maps and sketches in a public way.” have an opportunity to influence,” said Pedro Toledo, member of the California Civil Redistribution Commission and a voter with no party preference from Petaluma. “And that’s what makes it a little messy.”

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“Not everyone will be happy,” he said.

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The commission, created to end partisan gerrymandering by voters and also charged with redrawing legislative seats, is in the midst of marathon public meetings, taking hours of public testimony from elected officials, advocacy groups and residents. . His task is complicated by California losing a seat for the first time in its history.

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Hundreds of phone appointments to speak this week and last six meetings were booked within minutes, prompting the commission to reduce the time limit for each speaker to open more than 200 additional slots. He has already received about 18,000 letters, emails and other forms of communication.

The 14-member commission’s first task is to create 52 congressional districts, each with approximately 761,000 residents. His next priority is to comply with the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

Minority groups argue that the commission’s draft maps, approved earlier this month, fail because they deprive marginalized communities.

The maps have 12 districts with more than 50% of residents who are Latino citizens of voting age, as well as one with less than 50%.

Civil rights advocates argue that there should be more, especially in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire.

Lori Pesante, director of civic engagement and government relations at the Dolores Huerta Foundation, testified Wednesday that Central Valley districts that actually offer Latinos the opportunity to choose the candidates they want should have a higher baseline — 65% of the population. , 55% voting-age population and 50% registered voters.

“Your current draft maps at all levels do not meet these effectiveness metrics and we fear you are creating districts that will completely deprive our Latino population and other communities of color for the next 10 years,” he said.

Most Latino in the country, rap. The commission’s proposal to sever the Los Angeles-area seat of Lucille Royble-Allard particularly angered. According to the nonpartisan California Target Book, the Democrat’s district has a Latino population of 87% and a Latino voter population of 81%, which obfuscates the Congressional race.

“When you eliminate a Latino-majority district like Roybal-Allards, you’re suing,” said Thomas Sainz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Representatives of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are also unhappy, pointing to the lack of a majority AAPI district near San Jose, where one was created 10 years ago, as well as the cleanup of the San Gabriel Valley.

“The region is growing in the context of the Asian American population, and shared policy concerns including increased anti-Asian hatred, the need for culturally sensitive services, along with the interests and concerns of shared cultural institutions built over the years… Connects all of the San Gabriel Valley together,” said Cha Wang, deputy director of the AAPI for Civic Empowerment Education Fund. “It is a community of interest that is very important to keep whole.”

The commission is also facing a systematic effort to create congressional districts with largely gay and lesbian populations.

“California has been at the forefront of using redistribution to empower LGBTQ communities since the 1970s,” said Samuel Garrett-Pet, a spokesman for Equality California.

He pointed to the lobbying that led to the historic election of Harvey Milk to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as well as the creation of a city council district in San Diego that was a launching pad for LGBTQ politicians, including Senate President Pro Tem. Tony Atkins and included. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

Now, Equality California and others are working on the most aggressive effort in the country to make a voice for LGBTQ communities in Congress.

Garrett-Pate said he was pleased with the San Francisco and West Hollywood-area districts in the draft map, but noted the scattering of LGBTQ communities in San Diego, Sacramento, the Coachella Valley and, in particular, Long Beach and nearby Orange County. are concerned about. beach town.

“We are not focusing on fair and equitable maps for the LGBTQ community at the expense of others,” Garrett-Pate said, noting that the majority of California’s LGBTQ community is people of color. “I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s the hard work the commission has signed up for.”

Geography is also a source of controversy. Residents of Napa County, Fullerton and Sacramento are angry about the division of their neighborhoods into separate congressional districts.

“It’s an arbitrary line right in the middle,” said Roger Salazar, Democratic adviser to the draft map proposal for the state capital. “Most of the time, you see these lines drawn to follow a geographic structure or city boundaries. It didn’t do any of that.”

Salazar, an adviser to Rep. Doris Matsui, whose district includes Sacramento, blamed the commission’s quagmire for the split.

“Look, it was done in a little hurry, at the end of the day, and the commission has acknowledged that they were going to make some adjustments,” he said.

After creating districts of equal size that do not deprive minorities, the commission is tasked with creating contiguous districts, respecting community boundaries, and prioritizing efforts to delineate geographically compact districts.

Politics – whether protecting those in power or creating districts in favor of a party – is not considered a factor in finalizing the map until 27 December. But a Public Policy Institute California analysis released Tuesday found that the draft maps attract 20 members of Congress to a district with another incumbent. Members of Congress are not required to live in their districts, but voters often prefer them.

There is also widespread speculation that some of the public backlash is motivated by partisan goals, such as shunning endangered elected officials.

Other geographic debates appear to be driven by more personal rivalry, such as the displeasure of the residents of the San Fernando Valley with the Santa Monica residents.

“They don’t want to be with us. We really don’t want to be with them,” Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry Commerce Assn, told commissioners on Wednesday to suggest ways to pay excise duty to the city from a district with parts of the Valley .

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