Orange County will have first Latino majority district for a five-member board, after historic vote

In a historic vote, the Orange County Board of Supervisors created on Monday for the first time a district with a Latino majority and at the same time empowered Asian voters.

Supervisory lines for districts, which are reworked every 10 years based on the results of the national census, have long made it difficult for Latinos to elect, despite the rapid growth of the ethnic group.

It has been 15 years since there was a Latino representative on the five-member board, which oversees a budget of approximately $ 7.7 billion.

Many advocates held the vote Monday afternoon, saying it was a sea change that could help Latinos choose candidates who can advocate for issues crucial to their communities, including housing and healthcare, needs that have been highlighted by the pandemic.

“This has been a long time coming,” Thomas Sáenz, president and general counsel of the Mexico-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, told the Los Angeles Times.

The map keeps Costa Mesa in the same district as its neighbor, Newport Beach.

Another map under consideration had separated the two cities with deep ties, including a shared school district, prompting allegations of manipulation to exclude Democrats.

That map would have put Supervisor Katrina Foley, a Democrat living in Costa Mesa, at a disadvantage.

Now Foley, who is white, has a good chance of winning re-election next year.

Until then, he is in the strange situation of representing a Latino majority district in which he does not live.

Still, the final map makes three of the five districts a Republican majority, even though the Republican record in the county is trending downward, said Julia Gomez, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU).

Gomez called the creation of a Latino-majority district “a great victory” for the county.

But he also alleges that the southern section of the county was rigged in a way that reduces the influence of Democratic voters.

“So it’s really a partial victory for community members,” he said.

This could open Orange County to legal challenge, Gomez said. She declined to say whether the ACLU was considering filing a lawsuit.

The final map, dubbed 5A1, was produced by supervisor Doug Chaffee, who with Foley is one of two Democrats on the Republican majority board.

Chaffee, who is white, based his map on a proposal from the Orange County Civic Engagement Board, which aims to promote civic engagement in communities of color and includes environmental advocates, Asians, Islanders, Pacific, Latinos and Labor.

The map, which was approved by a 3-2 vote with Republican supervisors Andrew Do and Don Wagner disagreeing, creates a district in which nearly 63% of voting-age residents are Latino.

It includes Santa Ana and very Latino portions of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Tustin, and Orange.

This district will be represented by Foley until next year’s election.

The map also creates a second district where 42% of the voters are Latino.

Advocates say the two districts with large numbers of Latinos can stimulate greater political participation and greater turnout from Latino voters across the county.

“Groups that constantly see their candidates lose, sometimes people within that group lose their interest in participating in elections, and this contributes to less turnout,” Saenz said. “This will be a critical part of fully incorporating the Latino community in Orange County.”

In another district, which includes Fountain Valley, Midway City, Westminster and a part of Garden Grove, 33% of the voters are Asian-American.

But the map divides voters in Irvine, one of the fastest-growing cities in the county and one with a growing Asian-American and Democratic electorate, between two districts.

Orange County has not been overwhelmingly white in nearly 20 years and has become increasingly politically diverse.

The county, once a bastion of conservatism, has turned purple, voting against Donald Trump twice and against the removal of Governor Gavin Newsom in September.

The population is 38% White, 34% Latino, and 22% Asian, with more Democrats registered than Republicans.

But, as is often the case, the political power of growing ethnic groups has lagged behind their demographic strength.

The board currently has three white and two Asian-American members. It has been overwhelmingly Republican for decades.

Unlike Los Angeles County, which has delegated this year’s redistricting to an independent commission, Orange County’s own supervisors had the final say on the schemes of the districts they will represent if they seek re-election.

Monday’s vote concluded with nearly a month of meetings in which supervisors reviewed the maps submitted by the public, made revisions to create a new set of maps, and then made further changes to them.

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