A Latino candidate has never been elected to Compton’s City Council or any other city office in a city that has now become two-thirds Latino in recent years, a change for an area that has traditionally been a predominantly African American community. Is this election stat bound to change soon? Well, a lawsuit has been filed on the basis of the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, claiming that the civil rights of Latinos have been violated in Compton because their voting power has been diluted. Three Latina women are the plaintiffs in the suit, but it is reportedly unclear who is financing the litigation. The women’s attorneys argue they want to stop Compton’s scheduled April 2011 primary and June 2011 general election until the suit is resolved. The LA Times reports:
“Compton has a mayor and four council members. The council members represent separate districts but are elected by voters throughout the city. In a by-district system, voters would elect representatives in their specific districts. The court would ultimately decide whether to adopt district lines to be proposed by the plaintiffs, said Joaquin Avila, attorney for the women. Avila is a Seattle-based lawyer with expertise in voting rights cases. ‘If you [vote] district by district, your representative has to be more accountable,’ said Arnold Alatorre, 49, who runs the family-owned Alatorre Market and grew up in Compton but now lives in Downey. ‘Once they get voted in at-large, they figure they are already in, so they feel they don't have to answer to anybody.’ It would be possible to create at least one district in Compton where Latinos would make up a majority of potential voters, according to a statistical analysis included in court documents. That would probably result in the election of at least one Latino to the City Council.”
While many Latinos want to see greater representation in the community since they are a majority of the population, notably Latinos only make up 43% of eligible voters and half of the area’s Latinos residents are not citizens. Reportedly in the last decade only one Latino candidate has received more than 20% of the vote in an election. For more on issues of voting representation in Compton and neighboring cities, see here.