Anaheim City Council members this week have settled on a newly carved out election map that will determine voter representation in Orange County’s largest city for roughly the next decade and it boosts the Latino community’s voting power.
In half of the city’s six voting districts, Latinos eligible to vote would make up 50% or more of the population in a city where Latinos make up more than half of the city’s total population.
Like many cities in Orange County, this marks the first redistricting process for Anaheim.
Over the past five years or so, many OC cities have switched from at-large elections to district elections after being threatened with lawsuits alleging that their citywide, at-large voting methods were disenfranchising communities of color.
In at-large elections, voters across the city can vote for as many candidates as there are council seats up for grabs. For example, if three seats are up for election, voters can vote for three candidates – the top three vote-getters are then elected to those seats.
In district elections, voters can only vote for one candidate who lives in their respective districts.
“(Map) 114 for the most part reflects our city’s demographics and communities while having clear geographical boundaries and maintaining similarities to the current district map boundaries,” Councilman Avelino Valencia said at the meeting.
Councilman Jose Moreno was absent from the meeting and Councilman Stephen Faessel was the dissenting vote, who insisted the Platinum Triangle, a development area near Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, stay together.
Map 114 would split up the Platinum Triangle area.
“I won’t support any map whatsoever that breaks up the Platinum Triangle,” Faessel said at the meeting. “I will not budge on the Platinum Triangle.”
The new map has been drawn using 2020 census data.
Census results from 2020 show the city has a citizen voting age population of 199,301 people – 39% are Latino, 36% are white, 21% are Asian/Pacific Islander residents and 4% are Black, according to the city’s demographic census summary.
According to the same data, 54% of the city’s total population are Latino.
The newly selected map will create three major Latino voting districts in the west side of the city with around 50% of Latino voting-age residents making up districts 3, 4 and 5.
“Definitely 114 is my favorite because it keeps the majority Latino vote, but also it keeps most of the community’s interests together and that’s ultimately what we are trying to achieve here,” said Councilman Jose Diaz at the meeting.
Under the current map, only two of the the six districts in Anaheim have a majority Latino citizen voting age population.
The selection of the map came after several Anaheim residents, mainly volunteers from the nonprofit Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, voiced support for Map 114.
“Map 114 offers stability and balance to all three needed districts. Not only will it allow residents of each district to come together, learn and contribute to diverse communities but it will offer more opportunities for future generations to unfold,” said Dayana Badillo Marin, a resident who spoke at the meeting.
Anaheim & Other OC Cities Forced to Switch to District Elections
Back in 2016, the city adopted its first district boundary map based on census data from 2010.
Up until recent years, Anaheim used to hold at-large elections where residents could vote for as many council candidates as there were vacant seats on the dais.
Anaheim ended up making a switch to district voting after settling a lawsuit in 2014 from the ACLU that alleged at-large voting was disenfranchising Latino voters and violating the State’s Voting Rights Act. The settlement called for the city to put the district election question in front of voters.
City officials spent over $1 million tax dollars fighting the lawsuit that eventually saw an overwhelming majority of city voters choose to switch to district elections in 2014.
Officials there weren’t the only ones forced to switch their election system in lawsuits.
Cities and school districts up and down California have also transitioned to district voting following lawsuits or being threatened with litigation.
The list continues to grow.
Brea officials are in the midst of a transition amid two competing legal threats over the future of elections over there.
Anaheim council members are expected to finalize adoption of their new map at their March 15 meeting.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
And since you’ve made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.