In February, a federal judge ruled that election districts for the board of supervisors in a Central California county illegally dilute the voting power of Latinos and deprive them of an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The ruling came in a lawsuit against Kern County by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which is a non-profit civil rights organization based in Los Angeles. MALDEF’s argument was that the boundary between two districts in Kern County broke up a large Latino community, which violated the federal Voting Rights Act. Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, said the following in a statement the day of the ruling,
Today’s decision should stand as a warning to other counties in California, a number of which also failed to comply with the Voting Rights Act during the last round of redistricting. The growing Latino community is entitled to representation, and drawing lines to protect incumbents risks costly litigation to secure an eventual remedy to protect voters’ rights.
U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd was the presiding judge that struck down Kern County’s 2011 redistricting plan, because it was not “equally open to participation by Latino voters.” Judge Drozd felt that the plaintiffs had shown that the Latino community in Kern County was sufficiently numerous and geographically compact to constitute the majority in a second supervisorial district. The lawsuit is now in the second phase, where Judge Drozd will consider ways to correct the imbalance. We will have to wait and see how the judge plans to correct the imbalance and how long it will take to implement.
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