LOS ANGELES -The California Redistricting Commission (CRC) has been considering a move that would cripple African American political power.
“The CRC’s process as they develop the next round of maps would divide South Los Angeles, dissolving years of hard-won African American voting power and multi-racial unity,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, of the African American Redistricting Collaborative (AARC), according to the Los Angeles Sentinel.
It would effectively and completely cut out a long-time African American stronghold of political power–eviscerating the African American population in the 33rd Congressional District, a seat currently held by Congresswoman Karen Bass and previously, the Hon. Diane Watson, and the late Congressman Julian Dixon.
“What is also alarming is that the CRC is developing the next round of maps using some data that is not even available to the public,” said Harris-Dawson. “The African-American Redistricting Collaborative (AARC) questions this sudden secrecy.”
The AARC worked with the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to produce and submit a set of “Unity Maps” to the CRC. The “Unity Maps” reached a compromise that appeased African American, Asian American and Latino citizen groups when it came to district lines.
The CRC’s visualization instead, divides South L.A., pitting African-American interests against Latino interests. The CRC should not continue on this course. Especially if it is predicated on undisclosed reports and data.
“We need to be clear with the CRC that African American voting power is not easily swept under the rug. Despite all of the hard work and effort by these three groups to develop a map that addresses their interests in the most complex part of the state, the CRC’s maps selectively place African Americans at the back of the line in protecting voting rights. This is a clear case of packing, in violation of federal law.
If the CRC decides to ignore the law and public input without due consideration of either, then AARC will pursue a fair district map using all available options,” said Jackie Dupont-Walker of Ward Economic Development Corporation. “Losing our African-American political power would not only harm the African and African American population, it would also threaten the civil rights or every cultural group in the state, especially those who have long suffered from under-representation.”
The AARC calls on the CRC to release all studies that are being considered when drawing the lines and continue with general transparency. We also call on them to be true to the process they laid out and to the community testimony given.
AARC includes Community Coalition, Ward EDC, West Angeles CDC, LA Urban League, Agenda, NAACP, and 20 other community, faith, civic, and business organizations statewide.
In addition to the above, the current, preliminary maps show an incredible disrespect for African American electoral participation and has created meandering and totally nonsensical districts. Based on the not-too-distant past experiences of Black Americans in the voting process, it seems fair to ask, ‘was this intentional and/or are we going backwards?’
Part of the CRC’s mandate is to draw new districts based, in part, on how people define their “community of interest;” which is to be accomplished with greater citizen input than has ever occurred. The preliminary districts, as presently drawn, show no concern for the interests or input of African Americans. The proposed maps gut Black political power for the Assembly, State Senate and Congressional districts without regard to ethnic groups in general and Black people in particular–especially in view of the Black historic struggle for voter rights that have empowered virtually all ethnic and disenfranchised groups.
Despite the commission’s best intentions, as represented in its first mapping proposals, African Americans appear to come up short, are neutered politically in their strongest areas and are faced with the reality that such plans are not invested in thriving Black Los Angeles.