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Redistricting: between the lines

August 03, 2008

Re "Power lines," Opinion, July 27

I was the staff director of the state Senate Committee on Elections and Reapportionment from 1971 through 1974 and from 1980 to 1982. Tony Quinn's article on reapportionment blatantly ignores that in 1971, the single "African American ... state Senate seat" he mentions was held by Mervyn M. Dymally of Compton, who, not coincidently, was chairman of the Senate Committee on Elections and Reapportionment.

Dymally made a politically costly and successful effort to increase state Senate representation for the Latino population in East Los Angeles, creating a new district entirely within East L.A.

Dymally's 1971 reapportionment plan also created a second congressional district to which an African American could be elected and a second state Senate district to which another African American could join Dymally. Clearly, minorities would have benefited from what Dymally proposed in 1971.

What Quinn does not mention is that it was action from Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan and the California Republican Party, through veto and referendum, that kept the 1971 plan from going into effect. The record shows that Republicans become allies of minorities in reapportionments when it bolsters Republican Party interests.

Quinn and I have publicly debated on several occasions. He is a fine fellow, scholarly, analytical, intelligent and courtly, but nonpartisan he is not. He has been and remains a Republican.

There is urgent need for reapportionment reform in California. Whether real reform would result from Proposition 11 remains a matter for inquiry, which The Times should examine in its news pages, not just through opinion pieces from partisans.

Alan G. Rosin


Although Quinn is accurate in his retelling of California political history, he misses the point of the opposition to Proposition 11 by the civil rights organizations representing the African American, Asian American and Latino communities.

We agree that the status quo is unacceptable, but we strongly oppose Proposition 11 because it is the wrong fix. It would undermine all that Quinn identifies as the progress for minorities.

The illness is dire, but the proposed cure is worse. Proposition 11 is not the answer to our flawed redistricting system.

Arturo Vargas

Executive Director

National Assn. of

Latino Elected and

Appointed Officials

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