Anaheim rethinks voting districts, may add two Latino-majority zones

ANAHEIM – Citing political pressure and a potential lawsuit, the City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to set aside a previously selected voting map and take a fresh look at other proposals that have at least two Latino-majority districts rather than just one.

The move comes after Councilman Jordan Brandman, the lone Democrat on the council, was heavily criticized by his party for siding with Councilwomen Kris Murray and Lucille Kring to place Anaheim’s sole Latino-majority district on the 2018 ballot.

Two Latino advocacy groups had threatened to sue the city if the Latino-majority district was not placed before voters in 2016.

Anaheim is moving to a voting system with six voting districts, ending its long-standing practice of at-large voting that allowed the city’s electorate to vote for any City Council candidate.

“It has become clear to me that it is not the sequencing of the districts but the map itself at issue,” said Brandman, who is running for the congressional seat currently held by Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

“Upon further review and conversations with several community leaders, I believe not having a map with two Latino-majority districts on the ballot in 2016 could expose the city to further lawsuits,” Brandman said.

Mayor Tom Tait and Councilman James Vanderbilt unsuccessfully argued not to start over on the voting districts.

They called for keeping a map that was approved last month and has one Latino-majority district. They had hoped to have that district, District 3, placed before voters in 2016.

few Latinos have served

They argued that the most heavily Latino district should elect its council representative as soon as possible. Only a few Latinos have served on the City Council in Anaheim’s history.

Latinos account for 50.8 percent of the voting-age population in District 3 – the only area where the ethnic group makes up a majority under the previously approved map drawn up by Oscar Reyes, a 24-year-old substitute teacher from Anaheim. Latinos would have accounted for a plurality in two other districts.

Activists had preferred Reyes’ map, saying that it would allow Latinos living in the plurality districts to join with other interest groups in a future election, potentially expanding the reach for Latinos to three voting districts.

“I thought we were just about there; I was so proud of this council,” Tait said. “It felt like we were about ready to hit a home run, and then we tripped just before we got to the plate. Now we’re getting up and running back to third (base).”

Before agreeing to restart the mapping process, Brandman, Murray and Kring previously had said that they kept District 3 off of the 2016 ballot because the area already is represented by Councilman James Vanderbilt, who is half-Latino. However, Vanderbilt does not technically represent that district because he was elected by voters citywide for a term that will end in 2018.

In an attempt to keep the council majority from using that argument again, Vanderbilt announced Tuesday night that he moved to another district in west Anaheim.

‘shouldn’t be about me’

“This shouldn’t be about me,” Vanderbilt said. “This should be about the people of District 3.”

Moving forward, the council will start a new round of public hearings on Jan. 26, examining roughly 30 maps that were presented to a panel of five retired Superior Court judges who conducted a series of community meetings last summer to gather input.

Ten of those maps were drawn with two or three Latino-majority districts, city officials said.

The City Council must approve the new voting boundaries by a July 6 deadline mandated by the Orange County Registrar of Voters Office.

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