by Roxana Kopetman and Meghann M. Cuniff
Orange County Register (February 3, 2015)
A controversial redistricting plan that appeared to solidify the political clout of Orange County’s Vietnamese American community played a key role in the election of one its own to the Board of Supervisors, Latino leaders said on Tuesday
Latinos, who make up more than one-third of the county’s population, have no representation on the five-member Orange County Board of Supervisors after last week’s election. Now, three members are Asian Americans – a first for the board.
On Tuesday, Andrew Do was sworn in as supervisor for the 1st District. His wife, Superior Court Judge Cheri Pham, administered his oath of office. Meanwhile, his opponent, Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, requested a recount amid allegations of voting irregularities.
In the wake of the election, Latino leaders bemoaned their absence from the government agency.
“We are nowhere to be seen,” said Amin David, a longtime leader in the Latino community. “Considering the makeup of the community, one Latino on that board would give it the dimension, the depth, the knowledge that would present a fairer picture of Orange County.”
Do beat Correa by 43 votes.
Do is a former Garden Grove councilman who worked as an aide for new state Sen. Janet Nguyen while she was a supervisor. Correa is a two-term state senator, a former state Assembly member and a former county supervisor.
In a district that is home to a politically active Vietnamese American community, the odds appeared to have been in Do’s favor. Vietnamese Americans outpaced their Latino neighbors by 3 to 1 in last week’s special election.
Political observers point to ethnic allegiance. Nguyen’s support of Do also played a critical role, said Louis DeSipio, a UCI political science professor.
But Latino leaders say the 2011 redistricting that pulled in Asian neighborhoods in north Fountain Valley into the district also made a difference.
“I predicted this would happen,” said Art Montez, a demographer and leader with local and state offices for the League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Hispanic civil rights organization in the U.S.
“They diluted the district,” Montez said.
Despite their numbers, eligible Latino voters are less likely to cast ballots, according to a 2014 study by the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis’ Center for Regional Change.
“It’s not because they don’t care or are apathetic. They are not brought into the process,” said Mindy Romero, director of the project. “But there’s a huge potential … if they are mobilized.” seen as less likely to vote.
Roger Salazar, a Democratic consultant in Sacramento, said low voter turn out among Latinos “is a great cause for concern.”
“We have to figure out a way to get them out to vote so they can be better represented in the future,” Salazar said.
Greater Latino turn-out last November could have narrowed the gap for former state Assemblyman Jose Solorio in his Senate bid and helped Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva retain her seat, Salazar said.
“We got blasted out,” said David, the Orange County Latino leader, of the various races that saw Latino candidates lose out.
Meanwhile, Correa said in a statement that his campaign has heard that people who lived outside the district “registered to vote and cast ballots in this election.” He also said he has heard that opposing campaigns collected and paid for ballots that were returned to the registrar’s office or at the polls.
Correa said his lawyers observed the counting of provisional ballots last week and said some were counted even though they were not signed by the voter, and that some voters appeared to have voted more than once while others claimed to have moved to the district without registering at their supposed new address.
Correa noted that he “does not necessarily expect” the recount to change the final result, but he wants to do his part to assure his supporters and the public that the election was fair.
Registrar Neal Kelley said his employees will begin counting the ballots on Monday. It could take eight to 10 days. Kelley estimates it will cost Correa about $2,400.
John Moorlach, who was 2nd District supervisor from 2006 to last year, said he expects Latinos will be well represented.
“I don’t think that they ever neglected the Hispanic community in the 1st District, so I would expect Andrew Do to have a good working relationship with the Santa Ana City Council,” he said. Moorlach was the sole vote against the redistricting plan.