October 3, 2001
By Hung Quoc Nguyen
San Jose (Mercury News) – At a time when our nation is focused on the need to come together, to promote unity and to keep racial tensions in check, it is extremely disappointing that our state Legislature and, now our governor, passed a redistricting proposal that divides – rather than unites – communities of interest in Silicon Valley.
On Thursday, Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation that redraws district lines. Redistricting is the process by which Assembly, Senate and congressional districts within California are adjusted to take into account changes in the state’s population.
The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits redistricting plans from denying or abridging minority voting rights. They may not fragment minority populations among different districts or over-concentrate minorities in districts.
The redistricting plan that was passed by the Legislature fragments the two city council districts in San José with the highest Asian Pacific-American population: District 4, Berryessa, and District 8, Evergreen.
The plan also unnecessarily splits the City of Santa Clara, a small city with a large Asian Pacific-American population, into two Assembly districts. Our Legislature has not only diluted the voting strength of an important minority group – a group that has contributed to the financial success of Silicon Valley – but it also has removed the opportunity for all communities to equally influence the political process over the next decade.
The Berryessa area of San José has a population that is more than 52 percent Asian Pacific-American. It has been fragmented into four Assembly Districts (20, 22, 23 and 24). The Evergreen area, with an Asian Pacific-American population of 44 percent, has been divided between Districts 23 and 28. Santa Clara, with an Asian Pacific-American population of more that 30 percent, is split between Districts 22 and 24.
In an earlier redistricting plan, Assembly District 23 (now represented by Manny Diaz) had a well-balanced population of 43 percent Latino, 35 percent Asian Pacific-American, and 16 percent white. In the final redistricting proposal passed by the Legislature, the Asian Pacific-American population in District 23 dropped to 27 percent, while the Latino population rose to 47 percent.
This is not an issue of “us” against “them.” This is an issue of fair and equal representation, as called for within the redistricting process.
We know that creating new districts that respect existing communities of requires active participation in the process. The Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting - Santa Clara County includes the Organization of Chinese Americans, the National Congress of Vietnamese in America, the Asian American Public Policy Institute, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, and the Asian Law Alliance. Members have testified, submitted written testimony and even offered a proposed Assembly map.
With the exception of Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist, our call for fairer and more equal district boundaries fell largely on deaf ears.
In the end, preserving political incumbency trumped the goal of maintaining communities of interest.
Hung Quoc Nguyen is a member of Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans for Fair Redistricting - Santa Clara County and is writing on behalf of the organization.
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