Politics

Latino activists ponder how to maximize Anaheim's new electoral map

Anaheim residents hold signs in support of a vote to increase the number of city council members and establish voting districts at a meeting last year. Latinos in the community feel that they currently lack representation in city government.
Anaheim residents hold signs in support of a vote to increase the number of city council members and establish voting districts at a meeting last year. Latinos in the community feel that they currently lack representation in city government.
Bear Guerra/KPCC

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Some Latino activists in Anaheim are trying to convince the panel of retired judges in charge of helping the city draw a new electoral map that only one Latino majority district is needed, rather than two.

The advisory panel is considering how to draw up six electoral districts that would replace Anaheim's at-large voting system. The panel has urged residents submitting maps for consideration to include two districts where Latino voters would make up more than 50 percent of voters in those districts. 

Retired state judge Edward Wallin, who chairs the advisory panel, said during a meeting last week that creating two Latino majority districts would give that community a better chance of electing a Latino to the Anaheim City Council.  

“My concern is they might elect no one if we don’t create the two districts,” Wallin said.  

Martin Lopez of South Anaheim is an organizer for Unite HERE Local 11, which represents hotel workers in the city’s resort area.

Having two Latino majority districts sounds like a good idea, but it would limit Latino influence, argued Lopez.

“It would lock our community to two seats only,” he said.

Lopez would rather have a map that has only one Latino majority district but two others with Latino pluralities hovering around 45 percent.

Although Latinos wouldn’t make up a majority in those two districts, if they joined other interest groups during an election, Lopez believes they could elect more candidates of their choice to the city council.  

“So that way we will have the ability to perhaps have a voice in three [districts] rather than just two,” he said.

There are five proposed maps on the table; the panel will ultimately select one for Anaheim, starting with the November 2016 election.

A lawsuit filed three years ago by a group of Latino residents forced Anaheim to move from an at-large voting system to a district-based one, which is supposed to give minorities a greater voice in city hall politics. 

Latinos make up 53 percent of the city's roughly 336,000 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. The districts must have roughly equal population and should be cohesive.  Federal voting rights law prohibits racial gerrymandering.