A New Redistricting Plan for Los Angeles County

Basic Map of the new county districts

This week, by a vote of 4 to 1, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a redistricting plan. Supervisor Gloria Molina was the lone dissenter. The new lines will help determine the makeup of the little known, but very powerful, Board of Supervisors.

The board considered three different plans. Supervisor Molina had a plan which would have added a Latino-majority seat, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas proposed a plan to add a different Latino-majority seat, and Supervisor Don Knabe's plan essentially included preservation of the status quo. Supervisor Molina's plan would have threatened Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's seat, while Supervisor Ridley-Thomas' plan posed problems for Supervisor Knabe's district.

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After a closed door session, four members of board, including Supervisor Mike Antonovich, voted to approve a slightly revised version of Supervisor Knabe's plan. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas changed his initial opposition to the plan (and his support of the creation of a second majority-Latino district) and tepidly endorsed the successful proposal.

Latino activists, who pushed hard for the creation of a second majority-Latino district, are less than happy with the new plan and likely will challenge it in court, something Supervisor Ridley-Thomas openly commented on.

Those in favor of the creation of another majority-Latino district pointed out that Latinos now number almost 50 percent of the county's population. Supervisor Molina is the only Latino member of the five member Board of Supervisors.

After a full day of testimony, and approximately 1300 people in attendance, the only thing that seems clear about the approved plan is that it will be reviewed by a judge.

Latino activists, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) will bring suit under the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act. The question, broadly speaking, is whether the boundaries approved under the successful plan impermissibly dilute the power of Latino voters. Stay tuned.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government in Los Angeles every week. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School.

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