How Latino Opportunity Districts Stimulates the Latino Vote:
The Case Study of the Greater Eastside of Los Angeles
By Antonio Gonzalez, SVREP President
The growth of the Latino vote in Los Angeles County illustrates the importance of Latino opportunity districts as a catalyst for Latino mobilization.
A generation ago the Latino vote in California, including LA County, was seen as dramatically underperforming given the potential. Indeed compared to other Latino-oriented urban areas across the southwest Latinos in Los Angeles had a low registration rate and controlled comparatively few electoral districts.
The reality of Latino underperformance in Los Angeles City and County began to change in the mid-1980’s with creation through successful redistricting litigation by MALDEF of two Councilmanic Districts in 1985 and 1987 and a Supervisorial District in 1991.
During this period SVREP and other organizations were able to interest Latinos in political participation at increased rates due to their perception that a candidate of their choice had a viable chance to win. This was novel in that Latino voters had not effectively controlled the outcomes of LA City Council or LA County Supervisor elections in a hundred years.
SVREP for example conducted massive registration projects that registered respectively 40,000 (1984), 20,000 (1988) and 20,000 (1992) new Latino voters across the great eastside of Los Angeles.
Indeed, Latino registration and voting roughly doubled from 1984 to 1992 in Los Angeles City and County as the creation of high profile Latino opportunity Districts and then the successful election of Latino Candidates of choice for the above mentioned Districts reinforced the upward trajectory of Latino participation.
This trend was further enhanced and extended outside of the greater eastside of Los Angeles County by the successful state legislative redistricting in 1992 that created Assembly and Senate Latino opportunity districts in San Fernando Valley, as well as Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Fresno, and Santa Clara Counties for the first time.
In conclusion the balance sheet on the impact of Latino opportunity Districts on Latino participation is measurable and significant. The data shows overwhelmingly that Latino voters responded with significantly enhanced participation both when they perceived their candidates of choice had a legitimate chance to win, and when their candidates were in fact victorious.
SVREP is a national, nonpartisan organization committed solely to the political empowerment of Latino communities. SVREP was established in 1974 by the late Willie Velásquez to encourage civic and political participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities. Since its inception, SVREP had registered over 2.5 million Latino voters, trained over 100,000 leaders and won over 80 voting rights lawsuits.