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News Too Real 3-29-21: The redrawing of electoral districts can cost the future of Black communities

As communities are becoming more diverse, the representation of residents in locally elected seats is proving to be inequitable due to the redistricting process

By ONME Newswire

In this News Too Real episode, producer host Julia Dudley Najieb reviews in-depth the redistricting process: Following the 2020 Census, the upcoming redistricting cycle is a critical moment to ensure political representation for our communities, impacting resources for education, health care, the environment, and other needs over the next ten years. The unfair manipulation of districts to dilute the voting power of minority communities is seen by many as another type of voter suppression.

Experts explain the process, the law and why it is important for communities to voice their views and prevent inequities.

Thomas A. Saenz returned to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in August 2009 as President and General Counsel. Prior, he served as Counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Saenz was selected as one of Hispanic Business Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Hispanics” in October 2009. In 2007, Saenz received the Peace and Justice Award from Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California; the Latino Law Students Association of Yale Law School Public Service Award in 2007; the Hispanic National Bar Association Ohtli Award in 2006; and the Mexican American Bar Foundation Professional Achievement Award in 2006.

During the podcast, Saenz explains how redistricting, a very important community process, only happens once every ten years, making it easy for the general public to forget. In fact, the census--which also only happens every 10 years-- is directly related to the redistricting process--Saenz explains how.

The decisions made through the redistricting process can determine not just policy

makers, but really determine policy made, but with the course of an entire decade.

Second, to convey that this is a process political in nature, but that really must

involve vigorous, community input and organizing. Particularly our communities of

color can take advantage of what the census shows in growth of our communities

through the redistricting process, but only if they the opportunity, and take that

opportunity to provide input to the line-drawers about how districts should be


Third, we want to convey how important and central The Voting Rights Acts of 1965

and its imperatives are in the redistricting process.

He also explains the reason why the situation would have been volatile had the Trump Administration been able to use the data only from the voter population versus the total population data from the census which had many delays because of this fight, along with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For many decades, the number of 435 U.S. House of Representatives has remained; the data from the 2020 Census will not be available until April 30th. California currently is at risk of loosing a seat in the U.S. House of Reps.

In fact, all the way until the 1960s, many states had not redrawn the redistricting lines for decades--which was, and is a violation of the U. S. Constitution. It was no until the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that each state and each locality must redraw their lines after the census.


Leah C. Aden currently serves as deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). Leah has successfully represented Black voters in the following statewide cases: South Carolina v. United States, Texas v. Holder, and Veasey v. Perry. She has also worked with local leaders to urge jurisdictions to adopt fair redistricting plans, advocates for the abolition of prison-based gerrymandering, and is a lead member of LDF’s team supporting challenges to police violence. Leah has authored or otherwise significantly contributed to numerous amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. Leah received her J.D. from Howard University School of Law and B.A. in History and African-American Studies from Columbia University.

Aden reiterated that the The Voting Rights Acts is central to the redistricting process, but there is a huge loss people should know about.

"We are suffering an impediment going into this next round of redistricting because in 2013, The U.S. Supreme Court immobilized section five (5) of the The Voting Rights Acts which is the heart of the The Voting Rights Acts. This is the provision that would have required some states, some localities to pre-clear to get federal approval before they could implement redistricting plans."

Aden plans on focusing on section two (2) of The Voting Rights Act to poke holes in bad maps intended to ensure that minorities do not have the same opportunities or even a chance in their local and state election processes--voter dilution.

"Voter dilution typically arises in the context of something called 'at-large-elections' ...are when fifty percent plus one (50% +1) of the voters, usually White voters, they control the outcome of the elections for all the seats on a particular body--they control the entire pie."

Professor Justin Levitt returned to Loyola after serving as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Levitt has published in the flagship law reviews at Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, and William & Mary, the peer-reviewed Election Law Journal, and the flagship online law journals at Yale and NYU, among others. Levitt served in various capacities for several presidential campaigns, including as the National Voter Protection Counsel in 2008. At Loyola, Levitt established the Practitioner Moot Program. Levitt holds a law degree and a masters degree in public administration from Harvard University, and was an articles editor for the Harvard Law Review. He is admitted to the bar in CA, NJ, NY, and DC, and to the U.S. Supreme Court, among others.

Levitt said most of the damage in redistricting happens at a local level, city, county and school boards. However he also identified improper use of race, called "race gerrymandering." (There is also negative race gerrymandering, which refers to a process in which district lines are drawn to prevent racial minorities from electing their preferred candidates.)

"Entities like MALDEF, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and AAJC are out there ready to make sure that map-makers are not focusing on race, particularly when that is used to injure a racial population or an ethnic population.

Terry Ao Minnis is the senior director of the census and voting programs for Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. Mrs. Minnis experience on the census spans two decades, having served as a leading authority on census campaigns in 2010 and 2020. Currently, Mrs. Minnis co-chairs the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Census Task Force. In addition, she was part of the U.S Department of Commerce’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee from 2002 through 2011 and the Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations for two terms from 2013 through 2019. Mrs. Minnis received her Juris Doctor, Cum Laude, from American University Washington College of Law and her bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Chicago.

Minnis used an extensive presentation to explain how the census is directly related to the redistricting process. The census data is imperative to the redistricting process.

"And the reason why this is important is because how the actual redistricting occurs is that the mappers will take these census blocks and combine them together to create these districts that match the number of units or seats for that level of government."


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