The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 late Tuesday afternoon to approve a redistricting map that largely maintains the status quo, despite threats of a federal voting rights lawsuit if a second Latino-majority district was not created.
The plan passed by the board, called the 'A3' plan, will minimize the movement of communities from one supervisorial district to another, keeping the electoral boundaries close to how they are.
Opponents have argued vociferously over months of public hearings that the plan would pack Latinos into one electoral district and pushed alternative plans that would create at least two districts where Latinos made up the majority of voters. Those plans would have resulted in more than 3 million people being moved from one district to another, compared to around 200,000 for the "A3" plan supported by Supervisor Don Knabe, whose 4th District includes Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey.
Tuesday's hearing included about six hours of public testimony, with advocates on every side of the issue and people from throughout the county showing up to advocate for their plan of choice.
In the initial votes for the three plans the Board was considering, all three failed to get the required votes, but then Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who had voted against the 'A3' plan, agreed to vote on it, in his words, to "expedite" a long-expected lawsuit on the issue.
"Regrettably I think ultimately we find ourselves in a circumstance where a federal court will likely determine whether a second effective district is in fact legally required," said Ridley-Thomas on Tuesday evening. "So it’s my view in order to expedite that matter and to avoid further what is a potentially divisive delay and what I would consider the unnecessary gamble of the uncertainty of an untested appeals process, we ought to hasten getting to closure."
Although no group has stepped up and openly announced they plan to sue the county, various individuals and representatives of Latino advocacy groups have said at board meetings that they expect that the 'A3' plan will result in a lawsuit.
If the board had not come to an agreement on a plan, a committee made up of officials from the Sheriff's Department, Assessor's Office and District Attorney's office would have had the next try at passing a plan, which was the "untested appeals process" that Ridley-Thomas referred to before voting on the 'A3' plan.
Throughout the process, the Board has heard testimony from attorneys and political science professors that the 'A3' plan likely violates federal voting laws, but the attorney hired by the county to examine the plans has repeatedly said she believes it does not.
The county was sued after its 1980 redistricting due to gerrymandered boundaries that diluted the Latino vote. A federal district court judge in that case (Garza v. County of Los Angeles) also found that the county had engaged in intentional discrimination in redistrictings in 1959, 1965 and 1971.
Molina in February 1991 became the first Latina ever elected to the Board of Supervisors thanks in large part to the Garza decision. Latinos currently make up about 48 percent of the county's population.
The county's Boundary Review Committee was tasked in November 2010 with drawing new lines to reflect population changes found in the 2010 Census. The 10-member committee, which consisted of two representatives by each supervisor, voted 6-4 to recommend the status quo map, now known as A3. The BRC representatives for supervisors Knabe, Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael D. Antonovich voted to support the status quo alignment ,while the committee members representing Molina and Ridley-Thomas voted against it.
Knabe's 4th District would have been dramatically altered under Molina's plan and would have become a new Latino-majority district that moves away from the coast and toward the eastern San Gabriel Valley.
Supporters of a second Latino-majority district held signs saying, "Make History ... Don't Repeat History." Others who favored the status quo alignment told the board that their supervisor, particularly Knabe, represented them well regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Knabe said in a statement after the vote that he was pleased with the board's action.
“I want to thank the thousands of people who came to testify, wrote letters, and sent emails. Today’s vote reflects their voice as we maintain our long established communities and avoid unnecessary shifts of millions of people to new districts," Knabe said. "In addition to meeting the letter and spirit of the Voting Rights Act, this plan preserves the relationships, connections and service levels that have been built over decades."
Molina in a statement said that she wasn't surprised by the board's vote.
"The last time major redistricting took place at this county in 1990, it was done by court order – not by the supervisors themselves. So I expected that might happen again," Molina said. "Today this board had an opportunity to make history, not repeat it, but all signs indicated that they would repeat history – and, unfortunately, they did."
Marina del Rey Patch editor Paul Chavez contributed to this report.