July 10, 2012
By DIANNE SOLÍS
Three words spoken on the first morning of a voting rights trial — “I gave up” — summed up years of trying for political representation in Farmers Branch for Alfonso Baladez, a 67-year-old retiree and Army veteran.
But to win the case and force the creation of a single-member City Council district, it isn’t enough for voters to simply feel disenfranchised in Farmers Branch, famous for its crusade against illegal immigration by an all-white council. Baladez and the case’s other Latino plaintiffs must prove that there is racial polarization and that there are enough Hispanic U.S. citizen voters living in a small geographic area to form a majority in a single-member district.
Last week’s trial illustrates the complexities of Voting Rights Act cases for Latinos, who now make up the biggest bloc of Texas’ population. Youth and citizenship status make the demographic group distinct from blacks who have traditionally used the 1965 civil rights legislation. Many Latinos aren’t of voting age yet; others aren’t U.S. citizens.
Nevertheless, George Martínez, a law professor at Southern Methodist University, said the Latino population is so large that continued use of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is inevitable.
“We’ll see more and more suits as Latinos try to translate their numbers into political power,” Martínez said.
Change in count
Just as Latinos officially became the state’s largest ethnic or racial bloc, the U.S. Census Bureau began large changes in the way it counts, surveys and estimates the population and its social and economic characteristics....