Orange leaders back plan that could weaken Hispanic, black voter strength

By David Damron

Orlando Sentinel

November 15, 2011

Activists seeking a majority Hispanic district for the Orange County Commission predicted Tuesday they will file a lawsuit after county commissioners roundly rejected the districting plan they favored.

"If they don't have a Latino majority district, we will absolutely look to go to court," said Diana Sen, a senior attorney with Latino Justice, a legal advocacy group. "And it doesn't look good."

Instead, Orange leaders voted 7-0 for a redistricting plan that held closer to existing borders but also would dilute Hispanic and black voting strength in the two commission districts that had the greatest percentage of voting-age minority residents.

Late into the evening, county leaders revised its preferred map at the street and neighborhood level, and lifted the percentage of minority voters somewhat in those districts. But it did not appear that any last-minute changes would come close to creating a majority Hispanic district.

County, city and school leaders around Central Florida are redrawing their own political boundaries as part of a once-a-decade process after every census population count.

Black, Latino and Democratic activists in Orange County pointed to the lack of any Latino representation on the elected county board and the 88 percent rise in the Hispanic population over the past 10 years.

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