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Asian/Pacific Islander groups battle to keep San Gabriel Valley communities together as 1 district – Daily News

Upset at the prospect of west San Gabriel Valley communities being split up in proposed new congressional boundaries, Asian-American/Pacific Islander leaders have mobilized a last-ditch effort to keep heavily AAPI cities together in one district.

The action comes while communities and interest groups across the L.A. area have sounded the alarm as state and local redistricting commissions enter the final weeks of redrawing congressional and state legislative districts that will change political boundaries for the next 10 years.

At the state level, the commission is independent from the state’s Legislature for only the second time, tasked with drawing up new maps based on population shifts in Census 2020. But there are still winners and losers in the process. New boundaries can split communities, diluting their political force, put cities and communities in new districts, where they might have less or more political force.

In the western San Gabriel Valley, leaders see less under the commission’s proposed maps.

“Our community deserves fair representation,” said Charley Lu, executive vice chairman and chairman-elect of the Indochinese American Political Action Committee (IAPAC.) “We should keep our whole community together in one congressional district. We are protected by the Voting Rights Act,” he said Tuesday, Nov. 23, as he implored leaders within the community during a pre-lunch briefing at the 888 Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead to raise their voices against  the currently proposed statewide map.

That draft  — released Nov. 10 by the commission –– splits up a cluster of communities that are currently in the 27th Congressional District, where Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, represents a vast area that includes Alhambra, Arcadia, Monterey Park, Rosemead, Temple City and San Gabriel. It’s considered a stronghold for Asian-American and Pacific Islander voting power in Southern California.

In the draft map, Monterey Park, Rosemead, Alhambra would be split from San Gabriel, Temple City, Arcadia and Pasadena.

Asian-American leaders point to the political power that collection of cities has built over the years; 38% of eligible voters are being Asian-American. Latino and White voters are just shy of 30% each in the district. In the proposed map, leaders point to a dilution of their voting power, which falls by 31% in one of the newly redrawn districts and  23% in the other.

“The voice of AAPI will be very small in those two districts. That’s why we’re here. We are communities of interest. We should be together,” Lu said.

Advocates in the community say their power to keep AAPI leaders in Congress is at stake. But they also point to historical  and cultural bonds between communities that justify their unity in a single district.

Like many other coalitions across the region, they point to services that have been established under current elected leaders — particularly in the COVID-19 era — that could be jeopardized if they were not together.

Jeffrey Koji Maloney, vice mayor and a City Council member in Alhambra, cites the rise in hate incidents against Asian residents as a key reason for such unity. That makes it essential, he said, to be able to elect  leaders responsive to local concerns and to set policy that battles racism.

“The time is more important than ever to have people fighting for us at the state and federal level,” he said.

Other groups in support of the effort included the Chinese American Equalization Association and several local business groups.

California is one of a handful of states that has pulled redistricting out of the hands of elected officials, creating the independent commission in 2008. The 14-member commission, made of of non-politicians, includes a proportional number of Republicans, Democrats and no party preference voters, as well as different areas of the state.

Underpinning the creation of a citizens commission is the idea that maps would be drawn in proportion to the population and its changes, rather than motivated by a legislator’s interest.

A chart and proposed Congressional district map that advocates in the AAPI community say would be fairer than what is currently proposed. (Courtesy, IAPAC)

Incumbents who might be hurt in the new boundaries are Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Boyle Heights and Chu, D-Monterey Park. The new lines could shift some Latino and Asian voters out of their districts. Another incumbent who would see big changes in her district, Rep. Karen Bass, is running for mayor of Los Angeles.

Similar issues are playing out at the L.A. County redistricting level, where AAPI communities and majority Latino communities of interest in eastern and Southern eastern L.A. are lobbying to stay together in districts. A separate commission is in the process of redrawing Board of Supervisor districts.

At both levels of government, deadlines for final maps are in mid- to late December.

AAPI officials have submitted a proposal they say better maintains their political force and keeps the communities together.

But they are mindful that the clock is ticking.

Lu says he believes the process itself has been fair, but that it’s not too late to change minds on the commission.

Leaders did not rule out litigation over the issue, noting that emails and letters may not be enough and that more “aggressive action” was needed.

Under the Voting Rights Act any legal challenge to a final map  is sent straight to the California Supreme Court for review — the goal being to settle any issues before pending elections.

The state commission continues to tinker with the proposed maps, with several sessions scheduled in the coming weeks, culminating with final, certified map by Dec. 27.

But leaders this week said they had hope.

“It is going to be a fight and it’s going to be difficult. But there’s still time to get this done,” Maloney said.

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