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Latino Daily News

Friday March 23, 2012

California Latinos Demand More Diversity Amongst Elected Officials

California Latinos Demand More Diversity Amongst Elected Officials

Photo: California Latinos Want More Diverse Elected Officials

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Hispanic leaders say that in California there are many cities in which the political leaders, in the city councils, for instance, do not reflect the ethnic diversity in society.

“Democracy in the United States doesn’t work well because it’s designed to discriminate against the minorities,” Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a non-partisan public policy analysis organization, told Efe.

“Therefore, we’ve used the Voting Rights Act to improve the system on several occasions in California and the result of those legal battles is that today we have a Latina on the board of supervisors of Los Angeles (County) named Gloria Molina,” he said.

Gonzalez said that using 2010 Census data, several organizations are analyzing each city in California to measure if minorities are being appropriately represented in the posts that are filled by popular election.

“California has 500 municipalities in which - in posts like legislators, municipal councilors and mayors, among others - there are some 9,000 posts for elected officials,” he said.

“But despite the fact that we Latinos are about 40 percent (of the population) in California and 23 percent of the electorate, there are only about 1,000 Latino officials. That is, just 10 percent of the elected officials are Hispanics. We call that inequality,” he emphasized.

The 2010 Census shows the U.S. population to be 308 million, of which 16 percent are Hispanic.

“One emblematic city in Southern California is Whittier, where despite the fact that 40 percent of the population is Hispanic, there has never been a Latino on the municipal council,” he said.

Gonzalez went on to say that in California there are about 3 million Latino voters and another 1.5 million who are eligible to vote but have never registered.

“So the call to Latinos is to register to vote and to those who have already been residents for five years it’s to become U.S. citizens and vote. That’s the way for them to fulfill their responsibilities,” he said.

Robert Rubin, attorney and legal director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, told Efe that the supremacy of whites among the ranks of political officials is due to the system for large elections for city councils and school boards.

“Therefore, the politicians racially polarize the vote and those who win are those who are in the majority, like the whites,” he said. “With that system, the majority voters control 100 percent of the seats.”

“The solution would be voting by districts in which ... those communities, where Latinos or Asians live, propose and vote for their (own) candidates,” Rubin said.

The attorney pointed to the Northern California city of Santa Clara where “despite the fact that 28 percent of the population is Asian and 16 percent Latino, on the municipal council they’re all white.”