Seventh Circuit holds city voting districts do not violate rights of Latinos

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] held [opinion, PDF] on Thursday that a 2002 reapportionment of voting boundaries in the city of Aurora, Illinois [official website] did not violate the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text; DOJ backgrounder]. The plaintiffs in Gonzalez v. City of Aurora unsuccessfully argued [oral argument audio] that having two Hispanic aldermen out of a total of twelve is insufficient representation for the city, which has a 32.6% Hispanic population. The plaintiffs advocated a redistricting plan to redraw the boundaries of three of the city's wards in order to achieve a 70% Hispanic concentration, which they said would ensure the election of a Latino candidate. The court analyzed the language of the VRA, relying on a US Supreme Court decision [JURIST report] for guidance:

Section 2 requires an electoral process “equally open” to all, not a process that favors one group over another. One cannot maximize Latino influence without minimizing some other group’s influence. A map drawn to advantage Latino candidates at the expense of black (or white ethnic) candidates violates §2 as surely as a map drawn to maximize the influence of those groups at the expense of Latinos.

The Supreme Court emphasized in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, its most recent §2 redistricting case, that the Voting Rights Act protects the rights of individual voters, not the rights of groups.

What we can see from the record suggests that Latinos are not concentrated enough to support three “Latino effective” districts without serious gerrymandering... In other words, the Latino population is not concentrated in a way that neutrally drawn compact districts would produce three “Latino effective” wards.
Recently the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] upheld a major provision in the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA. In May, the court's decision [PDF text; JURIST report] in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Gonzales [DOJ brief, PDF] upheld the validity of Section 5 of the VRA, which required states or towns with histories of racial discrimination to get Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] or court approval prior to making changes with their election procedures.

 

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