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Gainesville City Council considers new redistricting map

Minority votes, school board concerns still at issue

POSTED: August 12, 2011 12:07 a.m.

After weeks of discussion and community meetings on a redistricting map that would dramatically alter the city's wards, the Gainesville City Council received a second proposed redistricting map at Thursday's work session.

The City Council was scheduled to discuss a home rule ordinance to amend the city charter for the first proposed map. The newest map will be discussed at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The map was provided by the Gainesville school board and Linda Meggers, formerly of the Georgia General Assembly's Reapportionment Office. On Aug. 4, Meggers, the school board and council members met to consider adjusting lines on the proposed map.

The map was given Wednesday night to attorney Drew Whalen, legal counsel for the redistricting process.

Also at the work session, Maria Duarte from the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials presented a letter from the association stating the first proposed map disenfranchised Hispanic voters.

The association also opposed at-large City Council voting on the grounds that it prevented Hispanics from voting for the candidate of their choice within their wards.

The proposed map moved Hispanics out of Ward 4 and divided them between Wards 2, 3 and 5.

"We strongly believe that the current election process diminishes and dilutes the Latino community's ability to elect the candidate of their choice and disenfranchises their ability to influence the outcome of city elections," the letter stated.

Duarte added that while Hispanic voting registration was low, it had risen in the past year. She said the association would be happy to consider the school board's latest proposed map.

"One of our biggest endeavors is to organize the Latino voters and mobilize them," she said.

At the session, school board member Delores Diaz, who represents Ward 4, said she feared the first proposed map would not pass preclearance with the Department of Justice.

The proposed map must be approved in preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the Voting Rights Act to make sure the lines don't weaken the strength of minority votes.

The Voting Rights Act was amended in 2006 to include language minorities such as Hispanics. 


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