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Compton's Measure B: How district elections could change 'racially polarized' voting

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from a New York Times interactive mapping project. Blue dots represent black residents, yellow dots represent Latinos. Each dot represents 25 people.

A measure in Compton that came out of a lawsuit seeking greater political representation for Latinos in the city passed by a clear margin in yesterday's California primary election. And while there's no guarantee it will boost voter turnout in city elections, it's worth taking a look at some of the changes to come.

The 2010 lawsuit, which claimed a pattern of racially polarized voting, landed Compton in the national news. The problems it alleged were seen as symbolic of the cultural and political struggles that have ensued in formerly black regions of Los Angeles County that are now predominantly Latino, including neighboring Lynwood. In Compton, formerly majority black, the population is now two-thirds Latino.

The back story: In December 2010, three Latina residents sued the city under the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, claiming that Compton’s at-large city elections violated Latinos’ civil rights by diluting their voting power. Although the city is majority Latino, city council members have traditionally been black, and Latinos have historically had trouble winning elected office. (One sticking point in the lawsuit, as plaintiffs argued the lack of Latino representation, was the racial identity of a council member elected in 2011 who is of black and Spanish ancestry.)