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State, national columnists

New bill seeks to expand state’s Voting Rights Act

By From page A8 | April 14, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down a portion of the federal Voting Rights Act last year, saying its 1960s-era provisions were no longer applicable to 21st-century conditions.

The invalidated section required voting changes in nine Southern states to receive pre-clearance from the federal courts or the U.S. Justice Department, including the redrawing of legislative, congressional and local government districts. But its rigid voting history formula also was applied elsewhere, including four counties in California.

The practical effect was that any changes of election procedures in those counties, as well as any statewide redistricting plan, had to be pre-cleared – which became a political factor in the Capitol’s decennial redistricting wrangle.

Those four rural counties – Kings, Merced, Monterey and Yuba – have large Latino populations.

All four also had, during the 1960s, large military installations with large contingents of nonvoting personnel, and it’s been well proven that those two factors created an arithmetic anomaly that subjected the four to the Voting Rights Act’s provisions while exempting other counties.

The oversight continued for decades – even after Latino voting rates increased and even after two bases, Castle Air Force Base in Merced and Fort Ord in Monterey, had closed. It took years, but Merced finally was granted an exemption and a few communities within Yuba County, home to Beale Air Force Base, were as well.

The highly controversial Supreme Court decision ends that oversight and so far, efforts to restore the invalidated provision in Congress have failed.

However, state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, wants to expand the California Voting Rights Act, enacted 13 years ago, to insert judges into drawing city council, county supervisor and other local voting districts.

Latino rights groups have employed California’s law to challenge the “at large” election of local government officials, without individual districts, contending that the system effectively disenfranchises non-white communities. In response, local officials have been drawing districts for their councils and boards.

Padilla’s Senate Bill 1365, if enacted, would allow courts to intervene in drawing a local district if it “impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”

The bill is a priority for the Legislature’s Latino Caucus, and its backers contend it would be a check on racial gerrymandering. It could also enhance Padilla’s campaign for secretary of state.

At the very least, however, it would complicate the already fractious and highly politicized redistricting of large cities and counties, such as the perpetual angst over crafting five supervisorial districts in Los Angeles County.

Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him as [email protected]

Dan Walters


Discussion | 9 comments

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  • DanielApril 14, 2014 - 5:45 am

    This is to allow as many illegals to vote whom are being waived the carrot of free dual citizenship and entitlements to he's individually grab as many ballots as possible with no ID requirement and check all the Ds to offset angry American voters.

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  • CD BrooksApril 14, 2014 - 7:59 am

    Daniel, who would you like to see as the next president and why?

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  • Teach5thApril 14, 2014 - 7:09 am

    I have an idea - how about we expand the law by stating that EVERYONE needs to show a picture ID before they're allowed to cast a ballot. What a concept! (Here comes the argument against this common sense idea)--- old people and other " poor folks" don't have access to photo IDs. H-m-m - we could have a service that brings them to a place to get their photos taken and get them IDs - (not ACORN, though). Not a good idea? Well, then, you come up with something. Be a problem solver, as I say to my 5th graders. If these folks are so determined to vote, how about they find a way to get an ID? H-m-m - too hard for them to come up with something? Why do we want them to vote, then? Oh, that's right. Dems might not win elections if only those qualified to vote, vote. There's the real problem.

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  • Danny BuntinApril 14, 2014 - 9:04 am

    You are trying to solve a problem that does not exist.

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  • JBDragonApril 14, 2014 - 12:26 pm

    Yet the problem does exist! If you have to show a id to even get Government services, handouts, then doing it for voting should also be included. It really isn't that hard to get a ID. Yet even when it's offered for FREE it's a issue! There is a problem with voting fraud. I don't care if it's a million people doing it or 1 person and 1 fraud vote. There should be none. Why is it Democrats Re so against is. Of that's right, they want all the illegals voting. Or people voting twice in different precents which was goin on as people were bussed around. Yes there is a problem. One legal person, one vote, period! The country pushing democracy around the world and can't do something simple and get voting correct.

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  • Danny BuntinApril 14, 2014 - 2:29 pm

    The problem only exists in your head, not in reality. If you want to champion a cause, how about you start with the way some states void voters by having a similar name as a convicted felon. Completely white washing of mass voters.

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  • SkepticApril 14, 2014 - 3:29 pm

    Danny: please cite which states did what you claim, what elections and when, how many cases in each, please define your definition of "mass voters", and provide any other hard facts to support your blast.

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  • Danny BuntinApril 14, 2014 - 6:51 pm

    No problem. en.wikipedia.org/wi/Florida_Central_Voter_File

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  • joseApril 14, 2014 - 2:36 pm

    I don't need no stinking license

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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