Hispanics protest re-drawn Dallas Council districts

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on October 19, 2011 at 8:08 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 19 at 8:29 PM

DALLAS — Dozens of Dallas residents angry about Hispanic representation on the City Council want to make their message clear: They are not going away.

They're frustrated because as few as three Hispanic members of the City Council could be elected under a redistricting plan. While that is the current Council membership, more than 36 percent of eligible voters in Dallas are now Latino because of population growth.

Hispanic groups claim the redistricting map is just a partial view of the political power they deserve, and they protested at City Hall on Wednesday, demanding that the City Council vote again on the map so Hispanics have five — not three — "opportunity districts."

"We are entitled to more representation on the City Council given our population in the city," said Hector Flores of the Latino Redistricting Coalition. "We cannot retrogress; that plan retrogresses Latinos."

But Mayor Mike Rawlings, pleased there a total of eight minority opportunity districts on a Council of 14, said there will be no re-vote.

"We are going to be filing that with the Department of Justice," the mayor said. "I think it's a momentous vote, because for the first time we have a majority of the City Council will be minority."

African-American Council members, including Vonceil Jones, like the new map since it maintains four black districts, and said Hispanics should increase their usual low voting turnouts.

"One must work for that seat, and I believe that this map allows all people in Dallas to work for a seat and be at the table if they choose," Jones said.

Hispanics said they will urge the Justice Department to reject the map and force the Council to vote again. They are also planning a court challenge.

Hispanic leaders said Wednesday's protest also served a tactical purpose — making more Hispanics aware of what's going on, to anger and motivate more of them to register and vote.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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