'Political Pawns': Lawsuit Challenges L.A.'s Redistricting Outcome

Detail of the new District 8 map. See all of them on the city's website.

An attorney representing people in three Los Angeles council districts accused city officials this week of illegally using race as the basis for redrawing council district lines. Leo Terrell, who is black, said the redrawn boundaries were created to strengthen the black voting bloc in the 10th District represented by Council President Herb Wesson, while carving Koreatown into several different districts, effectively diluting the voting power of the predominantly Asian neighborhood.

Terrell told CNS the lines of the 10th District were drawn to "ensure a guaranteed re-election" for Wesson, who is black.

"Shame on this city when minorities disenfranchise minorities," he told the City Council on Wednesday.

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Terrell told the council he filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday on behalf of residents in the 8th, 9th, and 10th districts, represented respectively by council members Bernard Parks, Jan Perry, and Wesson.

The plaintiffs live in the Hyde Park, Baldwin Hills, Florence, Gramercy Park, Leimert Park, and Koreatown neighborhoods.

"We represent residents who don't want to be political pawns," Terrell said.

The lawsuit claims Wesson told a group of black ministers on July 2012 that the 10th District borders were drawn to "protect the most important asset we as black people have, and that's to make sure that a minimum of two of the council people will be black for the next 30 years."

Wesson declined to comment on the lawsuit. The attorney representing the city also declined comment, saying she has not seen the court papers.

This week's lawsuit is the latest to challenge the district lines drawn in last year's redistricting process. The city redraws council district lines every 10 years.

Terrell said he contacted the attorneys at Akin Gump who filed a lawsuit in August on behalf of Koreatown residents who accused city officials of using race as the basis for how the council district lines were drawn.

"We don't have any non-racial reasons as to why they split up the Korean community," Terrell said.

Perry, whose 9th District was redrawn last year, said in a statement that she "was extremely disappointed in the process; it was apparent that political ambitions were given priority over community interests."

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