The voting rights of blacks would be violated by a redistricting plan drawn up by Los Angeles County supervisors to remedy discrimination against Latinos, according to an attorney for the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The map, which places Beverly Hills and Hollywood in the same district as Watts, is "not in the best interest of African-American voters," said Theodore M. Shaw, who plans to oppose the county's reapportionment plan at a court hearing this week. The NAACP group is an intervenor in the redistricting lawsuit against the county.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, also said that the proposed remapping would dilute black voting strength in the 2nd Supervisorial District. "We would not support any proposal that further diminishes the possibility of African-Americans being represented on the Board of Supervisors," said Ridley-Thomas.
Shaw and Ridley-Thomas are not alone in their opposition to the county map. Latino leaders predict the plan will be rejected by U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon, who will hold a hearing Thursday.
County attorneys say the plan complies with Kenyon's order to correct voting rights violations against Latinos without committing new voting rights violations against blacks. Supervisor Deane Dana, who fashioned the plan, said it also creates an opportunity for two Latinos to be elected to the powerful five-member board.
Kenyon can approve the county plan unchanged or with minor adjustments. He can approve one of a number of alternate maps expected to be submitted by the plaintiffs or hire a redistricting expert to redraw district boundaries, according to attorneys in the case.
The board's conservative majority has voted to appeal Kenyon's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. Meanwhile, the supervisors last week submitted to the judge a redistricting plan that would change political representation for many of the county's 8 1/2 million residents and place liberal Supervisor Ed Edelman in a new, heavily Latino district.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs--the U.S. Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund--were still assessing the county plan late last week and would not comment.
The proposed new Latino district stretches from downtown Los Angeles east to El Monte and Rosemead and southeast to Montebello and Pico Rivera. It contains two thin fingers, one extending to Edelman's home in Westwood and another running out to heavily Latino neighborhoods at the north end of the San Fernando Valley.
The new 3rd District would be 74% Latino, up from 47% in the existing 3rd District. Latinos account for 45% of the registered voters of the new district.
Under the plan, Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who has long represented low-income South-Central Los Angeles, picks up affluent Beverly Hills and Hollywood from Edelman.
County attorneys said the plan leaves the black population unchanged--at 36% of the total population--in Hahn's 2nd District.
But by placing blacks in a district with fewer Latinos and more Anglos, the board effectively has cut the voting power of blacks, Shaw argued. Anglos traditionally register and vote in higher numbers than other ethnic groups.
"The plan has the effect of diluting black voting influence in District 2," Shaw said.
The plan also makes it more difficult for blacks to elect a candidate of their choice, he said.
Any supervisor would have trouble representing the proposed district that encompasses some of the richest and poorest areas of the county, Shaw said. "Black and Hispanic community issues converge more often," he said. "The issues are similar. You have a lot of low-income residents. But Beverly Hills is very different from South-Central L.A."
Latino leaders and political activists also attacked the plan.
"I don't trust anything the majority of the supervisors do because this is the same group that intentionally discriminated against us," said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Gloria Molina.
Molina declined to say whether she would run in the new district if it is approved.
Councilman Richard Alatorre, who oversaw council redistricting after the city settled a similar voting rights suit in 1986, said: "They could have done a better job in drawing a more compact district. What does Mt. Olympus (in the Hollywood Hills) have in common with East L.A.?"
The day after the plan was approved, Alatorre was one of the first to rush to the Hall of Administration to survey the new map. Alatorre is interested in becoming the first Latino supervisor. But he said he would have to do a lot more thinking before deciding whether to challenge Edelman in the new 3rd District.
Alan Clayton, civil rights representative for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said: "I don't think the judge is going to buy it."
"They put potential Latino candidates in with a well-financed incumbent," he said. Clayton favors a plan submitted by MALDEF during settlement talks last year that carved a new Latino district from the 1st District, where Supervisor Pete Schabarum is retiring.
The board's conservative majority feared that such a move would have cost them control of the board by leading to the election of a liberal. They contend that those opposing the county plan want to tip the balance of power on the board, which is now 3 to 2 in favor of the conservatives.
Clayton contended that the plan still fragments heavily Latino neighborhoods. Kenyon ruled that the 1981 redistricting spread Latino neighborhoods among three districts, thereby diluting Latino voting strength in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Richard Martinez, executive director of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, said: "These guys are not taking the judge seriously."
In court papers filed with the plan, county attorneys noted that courts have deferred to redistricting plans submitted by legislative bodies if the plans correct the voting rights violation--even if a judge believes he has a better plan.
"If the legislative plan is legal but for minor aspects," the county papers say, "the court should defer to the plan and correct or modify only those portions of the plan that are legally or constitutionally infirm, rather than rejecting the entire plan."
County officials said the new map could do more than the plaintiffs had dreamed--perhaps leading to the election of two Latinos.
They contend that a Latino would have a good chance of unseating Edelman in the 3rd District and that former Schabarum deputy Sarah Flores could win the vacant 1st District seat in a November runoff election.
Flores finished first in the June primary with 34.6% of the vote and is scheduled to face Superior Court Judge Greg O'Brien, who took 20.7% of the vote, if Kenyon does not throw out the primary's results in that district.
Flores and her campaign consultants say that the San Gabriel Valley woman is still the favorite to win the seat being vacated by Schabarum, despite the fact that the proposed boundaries reduce the Latino population in the district from 47% to 36%.
An analysis of the June primary showed that Flores finished first among Latinos, with 65% of the vote, and non-Latinos, with 31%, said campaign consultant Ron Smith.
"Our numbers show that she would have won even if there were no Latinos in the district," Smith said.
Flores, who lives in Glendora, said her power base in the San Gabriel Valley is maintained in the proposed 1st District, which includes new neighborhoods in the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys.
O'Brien, who is backed by Schabarum, said the 11% decrease in Latino population could help him. "But I don't think it is going to be a significant push," he said.