The Hispanic community’s struggle to gain political power in Orange County in recent years moves to a federal courtroom this week. For the first time since a voting rights lawsuit was filed in 2012, both sides will meet Thursday before Chief Judge Anne C. Conway. The case pits area Latino residents and a national civil rights group against elected leaders who created political boundaries that plaintiffs claim “illegally dilutes the voting rights of Latinos in Orange County.” Meanwhile, local Republicans on the County Commission have signaled they may be open to a potential solution that would expand the county’s current lineup of six districts to eight, possibly giving Hispanics a better shot to win a seat.
For now, county leaders have scrapped a last-minute plan to ask voters in a special mail-in ballot whether they want to expand the county elected board by two seats. One reason it was proposed for a quick summer vote, proponents said, was to potentially eliminate the need for the pending voting-rights lawsuit.
However, a majority of commissioners backed away from that plan this month. A majority of them were not comfortable giving voters such little time to consider expanding the board, along with several other proposed charter changes, in a single up or down vote.
Instead, all those issues are set to be discussed in more detail at a workshop next month. Depending on how that turns out, commissioners could opt to put the expanded board question and other charter issues to voters in the fall.