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Hispanic groups dispute new California political maps

  • In this June 17, 2011 photo, American and Mexican flags decorate an auto shop in Santa Ana, Calif. The new boundaries proposed for California's congressional districts by an independent commission could wind up disenfranchising Latino voters, the fastest-growing segment of both the state's population and electorate. The debate over redistricting proposals by the independent commission will escalate in the coming weeks, as the panel takes public comment and wrestles with revisions before voting on a final version Aug. 15. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

SANTA ANA — Hispanic advocacy groups in California are alarmed about new political maps that sketch proposed boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts, saying the changes will disenfranchise the fastest-growing segment of the population in a state where the number of Hispanic politicians has soared during the past two decades.

The debate over that concern is likely to escalate in the coming weeks, as an independent redistricting commission takes public comment and wrestles with revisions before voting on a final version Aug. 15.

Since the commission released its draft earlier this month, advocacy groups have begun organizing their members and are urging Hispanic voters to attend public hearings in force to voice their concerns. Several groups have submitted their own proposals, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund raised the possibility of legal action under the 1965 Voting Rights Act if it is not satisfied with the final results.

"We really believe that the maps proposed by the commission could seriously impair the future of Latino political progress," said Rosalind Gold, senior policy director at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. "Latinos accounted for 90 percent of the state's population growth in the last decade, but we don't think the maps reflect that."

The debate is important in California, where no racial or ethnic group has a majority of the population. Thirty-seven percent of the state's 37 million residents are Hispanic, according to the 2010 Census, while Asians account 13 percent and blacks just over 6 percent. About 40 percent of Californians identify themselves as non-Hispanic whites. Thirty-two percent of the state's population was Hispanic in 2000.

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