Dallas Hispanics vow to fight city redistricting map in court

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on October 6, 2011 at 8:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 6 at 9:35 PM

DALLAS - The battle over redistricting in Dallas City hall didn't cool down Thursday.

Here's what's at the center of the debate:

The 2010 census shows that of eligible voters, more than 36 percent are Hispanic. About 25 percent are African American. And nearly 34 percent are white.

Hispanic members say that means they should have greater representation.

But the council voted Wednesday night to keep the breakdown of the council the same, with four African American members, three Hispanic members and seven Anglo members.

Hispanic leaders said they'll challenge the map before the Justice Department in Washington and in court.
 
Hispanics said the redistricting vote denies them more political power, after a decade of population gains. Former city council member and state representative Domingo Garcia said that's unacceptable.

"So we could actually be seeing what's called retrogression," Garcia said. "Where instead of going from three districts, we might wind up with two."
 
They wanted five.
 
On the approved map, four of the districts do have Hispanic voter majorities, including north Oak Cliff with 74 percent.
 
But Garcia said a Hispanic candidate, like incumbent Delia Jasso, might not win in that district, District 1. That's because white voters in Stevens Park and Kessler Park turn out to vote, and turnout is low in Hispanic neighborhoods.

Complicating the redrawing of District 1, is that District 3 Council Member Scott Griggs, who's white, is now drawn into District 1.
 
African American council members, who like the map since it maintains four black districts, say Hispanics just need to turn out their voters.
 
"That's achievable," said council member Dwaine Caraway. "You have to get out there and go to work."
 
The Justice Department must review the map under the Voting Rights Act and Garcia said he'll urge it not be approved.
 
He blames Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

"[Rawlings] failed to lead," Garcia said. "In fact, what he did played partisanship, protecting incumbents as opposed to finding what was fair."
 
But Rawlings told News 8 the map achieved eight minority districts he sought, and defended the process as fair and open.

"The city council was more than welcome to say, 'That's a bad map,'" Rawlings said. "They decided to vote on that and approve it. I think that map gets four Hispanic districts and a possible fifth one."
 
Garcia says the Hispanic civil rights groups LULAC and MALDEF will be filing a lawsuit against the city soon and could do so in either state or federal court.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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