Santa Ana: Example of How Ward-System No Remedy For Ethnic “Underrepresentation”

Can you find the diversity in this photo?

Can you find the diversity in this photo?

Chris Nguyen published a new post at OC Political that contains interesting lessons for the City of Anaheim, which is being sued by the ACLU and three litigants (who simultaneously shed crocodile tears about how much their lawsuit is costing taxpayers).

Nguyen asks whether Santa Ana might also be a target for a California Voting Rights Acts lawsuit. In Santa Ana, the seven councilmembers are elected to represent the district in which they reside, but they are voted on at-large.

The ethnically-homogeneous Santa Ana City Council is entirely Hispanic — it’s funny how that lack of diversity seems to bother none of the folks who are so agitated about Anaheim — despite the city’s significant number of Asian voters. Nguyen writes:

Santa Ana’s Asian population is highly concentrated in the western portion of the City.

In the redistricting plan adopted at the beginning of 2012, Ward 6′s border with Ward 3 moved south, and increased the Ward 3 Asian population by 16%. The relatively square Ward 4 became much more rectangular by yielding most of its western territory to Ward 6 and picking up the southeastern portion of Ward 6. This increased the Ward 4 Asian population by a whopping 209%. However, these changes decreased the Ward 6 Asian population by 27%.

Prior to the 2012 redistricting, 46% of all Santa Ana Asians resided in Ward 6, 24% lived in Ward 3, and just 5% in Ward 4. With the new districts, just 33% live in Ward 6, 27% live in Ward 3, and 17% live in Ward 4.

Ward 6 is represented by Mayor Pro Tem Sal Tinajero; Ward 3 by newly-elected Councilwoman Angelica Amezcua; and Ward 4 by Councilman David Benavides.

At last weeks meeting of the Anaheim Citizens Advisory Commission on Elections, an attorney who was very involved in Modesto’s experience with CVRA litigation and move to council districts shared an interesting and relevant fact. When the city moved from an at-large system to a district-system, one of the new districts was a “majority-minority” district; i.e. a majority of voters were members of “protected classes.”

Rather than follow the underlying theory behind CVRA — that under such circumstances,voters will vote their skin color — this district elected a very conservative, white, NRA-supporting senior citizen.

All of this should be precautionary to those who are pushing Anaheim to cave in and enact council districts right now. Governance is a serious issue, and I am amazed at the rashness of calls to jam through council districts poste haste.

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