Latinos Stand to Lose the Most if Present District Lines are Used for Redistricting


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 2, 2012

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org.

Latinos in Pennsylvania have filed a lawsuit to prevent the state from using decades-old lines for redistricting, claiming the lines are unconstitutional, harm Latino voters and cause an inequality in opportunities for Latinos to elect representatives of their choice.

Last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court put the entire redistricting process on hold when it rejected new district boundaries approved by a State redistricting commission. The court wrote that until lines are approved, the 2001 Legislative Reapportionment Plan “shall remain in effect.”

Latinos charged that using the old district boundaries violates the one person, one vote doctrine of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This, in turn, dilutes Latino voting power. The current districts lines deny Latinos an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.

The case is being brought on behalf of Pennsylvania citizens Joe Garcia, Fernando Quiles and Dalia Rivera Matias. They are represented in the case by LatinoJustice PRLDEF and local counsel Jose Luis Ongay.

There are more than 700,000 Latinos living in Pennsylvania, most of them Puerto Ricans. The cities of Philadelphia, Reading and Allentown have seen huge growth in the Latino populations in the past 10 years.

“The status quo clearly does no justice to the State’s growing Latino community such that the 2001 legislative district lines do not reflect the demographic changes that have occurred in the last ten years. If the political process does not remedy this problem then we have no recourse but to go to the courts for redress,” said Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. LatinoJustice argues that the population growth since 2001 means that using the old district lines violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Using the 2010 U.S. Census results, the ideal population size for State Senate Districts is 254,048 and for State House Districts the size is 62,573. But if you use the 2010 census totals and the 2001 district lines, the deviations in populations vary wildly from district to district and are legally unacceptable.

For example if you use the 2010 population data in the 2001 district lines, Senate District 44, which covers portions of Berks, Montgomery and Chester, would be over-populated by more than 34,000 people. Conversely Senate District 38, in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties would be under-populated by over 40,000 residents.

“Our work to date shows that you can easily draw new majority Latino House districts in Philadelphia, Reading and Allentown,” states Jose Oyola of Latino Lines in Philadelphia. “The lines that were proposed are not perfect by any means, but holding an election this year on the 2001 lines is even worse.”

The Supreme Court has yet to say how the Legislative Reapportionment Commission should craft the new lines. The seven-member court voted 4-3 to throw out the plan.

Under the circumstances, "redistricting plans for Pennsylvania State Senate and State House districts will not be enacted in time to conduct elections in a timely manner," in accordance with the laws of the state and consistent with the U.S. Constitution, according to the complaint.

It is now unclear when a new map will be produced.

The speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has also asked the courts to rule that using the 2001 district lines is unconstitutional and should not be used for elections.

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