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Compton election could pave way for more Latino representation

June 5, 2012 | 11:35 am

City Hall in Compton, whose residents are voting on a measure to create districts for City Council members.

Compton voters on Tuesday will decide on a ballot measure that could change the way residents are represented on the City Council, potentially paving the way for a greater voice for Latinos.

The city's four council seats and mayor's post are currently filled through at-large elections, with all residents of the city voting on each seat. Although about two-thirds of the city's population is Latino, all City Council members are black.

A lawsuit filed against the city by three Latinas in late 2010 alleged that the system dilutes the voting power of Latino residents -- who are a minority of the city's adult citizens despite being a majority of the total population -- and violates the California Voting Rights Act.

After fighting the suit for more than a year, the city settled in February, agreeing to place a measure on the ballot that would amend the city's charter to institute by-district voting.

An argument in favor of the measure by lawsuit plaintiffs Enelida Alvarez, Felicitas Gonzalez and Flora Ruiz said that "voters should be allowed to choose leadership from their own neighborhoods" and that by-district voting would allow more people to run for office by cutting down the funds needed to campaign.

Former City Clerk Charles Davis submitted an argument against the measure. Davis said by-district elections would allow council members to be controlled by a small group of people and "increase the, you scratch my back and I will scratch yours syndrome."

Under the terms of the settlement, if the measure fails Tuesday, it will go to voters again in November.


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Photo: City Hall in Compton, whose residents are voting on a measure to create districts for City Council members. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times