The Department of Justice is blocking a voter-approved plan to convert the board of the Beaumont Independent School District from a system of seven geographic districts to one with five districts and two at-large seats. The $47 million spent on this sports complex raised the first of many questions about the behavior of the Beaumont Independent School District Board. Yet local Latinos say that it’s the Justice Department that’s doing the disenfranchising by insisting on a system that excludes a growing minority group.
In the 2000 census, the city of Beaumont was just 7.9 percent Latino. By 2010, the overlapping school district was 14.7 percent Latino, 45.8 percent black, and 35.3 percent white, according to the Department of Justice.
With 14.7 percent of the population, Latinos have the raw numbers to elect at least one representative to the district’s seven-member board, if their voting strength could be concentrated in one district.
Yet the new district maps the school board is working on do the opposite, spreading Latinos through all seven districts, at no greater density than 19.8 percent of the population in any one district.
That’s the sort of thing that the Department of Justice has consistently fought to prevent, at least since the 1973 Supreme Court case of White v. Regester, which overturned multi-member districts drawn to dilute minority voting strength.
It’s not entirely the board’s fault. The district’s mapmaker, attorney Chad Dunn, told the board Tuesday that Latinos are spread across the city. One activist agreed, saying the best Latinos could do would be 32 percent of a district.
That’s why some community members who spoke at the meeting Tuesday would like to see the five districts and two at-large system enacted. They say they have their best chance at representation by winning an at-large seat.
Full Article: DOJ ignores Latinos in TX voting rights case « Watchdog.org.