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MALDEF explains lawsuit against Kern County

Posted at 3:46 PM, Apr 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 22:04:57-04

A new lawsuit in Kern County may force county leaders to redraw the district map. The purpose would be to ensure Latinos are fairly represented.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also known as MALDEF, is suing the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

"Kern County will thrive when every voice is heard," said MALDEF attorney, Matthew Barragan.

He said four residents living in two different districts are concerned the county's 2011 redistricting plan prevents Latinos from being elected to office - violating the federal voting rights act of 1965.

"They've worked in different districts to get candidates elected and they've been unsuccessful. So a change in the plan would allow them to elect someone and be more involved in their governance," said Barragan.

He said the population of Delano, McFarland, Shafer and Waco are mostly Latino. Right now, the districts split up those four cities, giving Latinos a disadvantage when voting for a county representative.

"Because we are not a majority in the two northern Kern districts, we don't make up a majority, so we are not able to be heard," he said.

By filing a lawsuit, they hope a judge will rule the county's redistricting plan unlawful, thus creating a second district in northern Kern County that would better represent Latinos in those communities.

"Their decision would matter, their voice would be heard and any candidate that's elected from that jurisdiction would be elected by a majority of the Latinos."

23ABC reached out to county counsel, who said they have not received a copy of the complaint so they can't comment on the issue right now.

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