Out of Line
Supreme Court may overturn Voting Rights Act, meaning changes for Monterey County.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Simon Salinas became the city of Salinas’ first Latino councilmember in 1989, the city’s first year electing representatives in geographic districts rather than at-large.
Salinas, now a county supervisor, says he won thanks in part to redistricting: “We didn’t have the numbers to go up against South Salinas.”
Redistricting is a mathematical reconfiguration that follows every U.S. Census to ensure the voting population is evenly spread.
What makes Monterey County different is that it’s one of three California counties affected by a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The federal law only affects jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination. In those places, all local voting changes must be federally approved.
But the U.S. Supreme Court may strike down those protections.
“The South has changed,” Attorney Bert Rein, representing plaintiff Shelby County of Alabama, told the Supreme Court justices in oral arguments on Feb. 27.
Whether Monterey County has changed is open to interpretation. Monterey County Board of Education member David Serena says race still plays a role in elections. “It’s one thing to get a Latino elected at-large,” Serena says. “But to get a Latino agenda, you have to have Latinos elect a Latino.”
Case in point: the November 2012 election of two Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare representatives, both Latinos, happened in new – and heavily Latino – districts.
Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, on March 6 introduced a resolution to voice the Legislature’s support for the law.
“I think the Voting Rights Act is as important as it was in 1971, when Monterey County became subject to [parts of] it” Alejo says. “As an attorney, I utilized the law.”