Civil rights groups protest governor’s redistricting plan

Civil rights groups today denounced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s redistricting reform proposal as deleterious to California minorities.

‘Voters First’ puts minority voters last,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of tge National Association Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. “The (initiative) is a flawed strategy for achieving open and accountable redistricting in California. It fails to guarantee diversity, expertise or accountability within the commission it creates, and represents a step backwards for the political progress of California’s minorities.”

The governor is backing a ballot measure called the California Voters First initiative that would strip the Legislature of its authority to draw legislative district boundaries and turn it over to an independent commission.

Read on for the civil rights groups’ press release:

Civil Rights Organizations Denounce California Redistricting Initiative as a Fundamentally Flawed Attempt at Reform

Groups find ballot measure fails to protect the interests of minority voters

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, some of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations held a joint press conference to denounce the California Voters First Initiative (CVFI), a flawed redistricting proposal that is worse than the current system and will impede genuine redistricting reform.

Participating groups include Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), National Association Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO) and William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI).

The initiative separates legislative and Congressional line drawing into two separate redistricting authorities and processes, where the state legislature maintains authority over Congressional redistricting and the proposed commission has authority over state legislative and Board of Equalization redistricting. This two-track system makes it more difficult for community groups to provide meaningful public input to the redistricting process because it will likely result in separate and simultaneous redistricting processes that will compete for public input but will result in diminishing it.

“‘Voters First’ puts minority voters last. The CVFI is a flawed strategy for achieving open and accountable redistricting in California. It fails to guarantee diversity, expertise or accountability within the commission it creates, and represents a step backwards for the political progress of California’s minorities,” stated Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of NALEO Educational Fund. “Its provisions will create barriers for public participation in the redistricting process and will jeopardize opportunities for Latinos to achieve full representation in the state,” he added.

“The CVFI is full of unrealistic goals, harmful rules, and complex systems that would impede competent redistricting by commissioners and limit involvement by members of the public – minorities in particular – and experienced line drawers alike,” said William C. Velasquez Institute President Antonio Gonzalez. “While the California redistricting process is in dire need of reform, the CVFI is a flawed ballot measure that contains numerous suspect provisions that taken in concert will potentially harm the state for the next 100 years.”

“Over the past four decades, MALDEF has been involved in various statewide and local redistricting campaigns and has witnessed incumbent self-protection at the expense of the Latino community. We acknowledge the need for redistricting reform that guarantees the protections of the Voting Rights Act, a redistricting commission that reflects California’s racial, ethnic and gender diversity and that ensures meaningful public participation. Unfortunately, the CVFI does not guarantee these principles and we oppose it,” said Nancy Ramirez, Western Regional Counsel of MALDEF.

“Any proposal to reform redistricting in California must ensure that racial minorities have the ability to fully participate in every phase of the process and protect opportunities to elect candidates of their choice. This is crucial to our democracy. The structure and decision rules of the CVFI raise questions about how this would play out,” stated John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.

The CVFI has until May 15 to obtain the required number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is America‘s legal counsel on issues of race. Through advocacy and litigation, LDF focuses on issues of education, voter protection, economic justice and criminal justice. We encourage students to embark on careers in the public interest through scholarships and internship programs. LDF pursues racial justice to move our nation toward a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all.

The NALEO Educational Fund is the leading organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service. The NALEO Educational Fund is a non-profit, non-partisan organization whose constituency includes the more than 6,000 Latino elected and appointed officials nationwide.

The William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI) is a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan public policy analysis organization chartered in 1985. The purpose of WCVI is to: conduct research aimed at improving the level of political and economic participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities; To provide information to Latino leaders relevant to the needs of their constituents; To inform the Latino leadership and public about the impact of public policies on Latinos; To inform the Latino leadership and public about political opinions and behavior of Latinos.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • RR

    Let’s see, half of all elected officials should be female, then the Latinos, Asians and African-Americans. So where does that leave political representation for Gays, lesbians, transgender persons, union members, the disabled, etc. I think the Census Bureau should draw up election districts to insure every conceivable “minority” is represented in our Legislature, Judiciary and Executive branches. Quotas for everyone!