The LatCrit Student Scholar Program (SSP) is a joint project with the DePaul University and other contributing schools. The LatCrit Student Scholar Program offers students pursuing intellectual agendas in race, ethnicity, and the law the chance to join the LatCrit community. In order to be considered for the program, applicants are asked to submit a portfolio of materials, including a previously unpublished paper, a statement of purpose, and a curriculum vita. A panel of distinguished LatCrit faculty from around the United States and elsewhere examines these student portfolios and selects three to five students to be designated LatCrit Student Scholars. LatCrit Student Scholars are invited to present their work at the annual LatCrit conference, receive financial support toward their conference-related travel and hotel expenses, and are mentored by established LatCrit scholars working within their field of interest. The program is open to students writing in English in any accredited degree program around the world.
History Over Cartography: The Need for a Reassessment of Voting Rights Law in the Quest for a Second Latino Supervisorial District in Los Angeles County
As the largest electoral jurisdiction in the U.S., Los Angeles County’s supervisorial districts disenfranchise more Latinos than any other municipality. The disenfranchisement of Latinos residing in Los Angeles County is not a new problem, nor is it invisible. The structural deficiencies in Voting Rights Act (VRA) Section 2 jurisprudence, including a focus on geographic compactness and a new inquiry into cultural compactness, serve to magnify the disenfranchisement of Latinos in Los Angeles County and complicate their ability to participate equally in the political process and elect a candidate of their choosing. Despite the VRA’s barriers to political participation for Latinos in Los Angeles County, a reassessment of Section 2 inquiries including: emphasizing the Senate threshold factors, creating and maintaining the salience of majority-minority districts, and de-emphasizing the Thornburg v. Gingles pre-conditions, provide an avenue for protecting the voting rights of Latinos and other ethnic minorities in and beyond Los Angeles. To better understand why a reassessment of Section 2 jurisprudence is necessary to protect the political power of Latinos under the VRA, this paper describes the current Section 2 legal landscape as it relates to Latinos through an inquiry of two important post-2000 court decisions involving Latinos and redistricting in Part I, then analyzes why historical inquiries outweigh cartography in protecting Latinos’ voting rights through an examination of the most prolific case study of Latino electoral disenfranchisement in the U.S. in Part II, and then presents a three-prong reassessment strategy to curtail vote dilution in and beyond Los Angeles.
In the face of a new battle to ensure adequate Latino representation in the 2011 redistricting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (LAC Board), a better understanding of Latino voting dynamics and voting rights is necessary to address the question of why Latinos continue to be underserved by the Voting Rights Act (VRA), despite significant population increases and gains in political incorporation in California, and beyond. Between 1875 and 1991, no Latino was elected to the LAC Board even though Latinos had become the largest minority ethnic group in the county by 1960. Further, no Black, white woman, or Asian/Pacific Islander had ever been elected to the LAC Board prior to Yvonne Burke’s election to the Second District in 1992. The historical exclusion of ethnic minority political representation on the LAC Board came to a head in 1990 when the Ninth Circuit held that the 1981 LAC Board redistricting plan violated Section 2 and intentionally fragmented the Latino vote. As a result of Garza, Gloria Molina, who was active in Californios for Fair Representation, beat out the established Chicano elected leadership to become the first Latino LAC Supervisor in modern history, representing a revised Latino-majority First District. Over twenty years after Garza, MALDEF and/or other civil rights lawyers are again poised to bring suit against the LAC Board for diluting the Latino vote under Section 2 and the 14th Amendment. In 2011, the LAC Board passed a status quo plan that denied Latinos a second majority-minority district. In the twenty-plus years since Garza, Los Angeles County has seen a significant increase in its Latino population and the continued existence of racially-polarized voting. Despite a sharp increase in the Latino voting-age population, the dominance of a racial voting bloc, and a history of discrimination, the current Section 2 legal landscape may complicate Los Angeles County Latinos’ ability to participate equally in the political process.
J.D. Candidate, University of California Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), 2013; M.P.P., University of California Los Angeles Luskin School of Public Affairs, 2010; B.A., University of California Santa Cruz, 2007. The Author would like to thank Professor Bertrall L. Ross at the University of California Berkeley School of Law and Nicholas Espíritu, Staff Attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for their research and editorial support.
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