Monday, December 20, 2010

Is Inglewood Next ?

Suit seeks to open Compton to Latino voters -

Although Compton has gone from a predominantly African American community to a city that is two-thirds Latino over the last two decades, no Latino candidate has ever been elected to the City Council or any other city office. Since 2000, six Latino candidates have waged unsuccessful campaigns.

But that may be about to change.

Earlier this month, three Latina residents sued the city under the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, contending that its at-large council elections violate Latinos' civil rights by diluting their voting power.City officials did not respond to requests for comment about the lawsuit.

In the last decade, no Latino candidate in Compton has advanced from a primary to a general election. There are also no Latinos on the Compton Unified School District's board, even though Latinos make up at least 75% of the district's student body, according to the state Department of Education.

Al Camarillo, a history professor at Stanford University and a Compton native, said the issue of Latino representation has been complicated by the history of African Americans' struggle for civil rights. Black voters and officials who had fought to get representation a generation ago are not likely to give up power easily, Camarillo said.

And some African Americans don't feel they should have to.

They point to municipalities including Maywood, Huntington Park, Bell Gardens and South Gate, all of which have Latino-majority councils.

"No one's going over there and complaining that there's no African Americans on their council," said Royce Esters, 73, an African American businessman and Compton resident since 1956, when the city was predominantly white and there were no blacks at City Hall. "African Americans are not just going to give [Latinos] the seats. They've got to go out and campaign, and come out to vote. That's how they might get in. You have to win your seat."

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