POLITICS

Anaheim approves city council voting districts, ending system that silenced Latinos

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2008 Getty Images)

Voters in Anaheim passed a measure on Tuesday that should pave the way for the city’s majority Hispanic population to have a voice on a city council which has only seen three Latinos serve in its history.

In a move expected to improve Latinos’ chances of getting elected to the Anaheim city council, voters in the California city of 354,000 approved Measure L on Tuesday with an overwhelming 68 percent of the vote.

Council seats have been determined in at-large votes, which allows anyone in the city to cast a ballot for any candidate. Now the city will be divided into seven districts, and each one will choose its own representative.

The city was sued earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union, with support from Latino community leaders, for discriminating against Hispanic voters and violating the state’s Voting Rights Act.

Anaheim was the largest city in California to still use at-large voting. Proponents of Measure L contend that the system silenced the city’s Latino community.

Measure M also passed on Tuesday, expanding the city council seats from 5 to 7.

About 54 percent of the people in Anaheim are Hispanic, but only three Latinos have ever served on the city council in the city’s 157 year history, the lawsuit pointed out.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a committee of three retired judges will decide on the new district boundaries.

"All this time, to not have anyone on the council representing us is a shock — and unacceptable," Ada Tamayo, a teacher for 17 years, told the LA Times.

“It was an overwhelming display by the voters that it was time to modernize our electoral system,” José F. Moreno, president of the Anaheim City School District told the Orange County Register, “and provide a voice for residents who have felt neglected, ignored and disrespected by the current system.”