Latino Voting session focuses on redistricting
Fred Kuhr May 14, 2001PROVIDENCE -- According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the Latino population in RhodeIsland almost doubled over the last decade.But who is going to make sure that Latinos will be represented accordingly in the statelegislature and Congress after the upcoming redistricting and legislative downsizing?With that question in mind, staff members from the New York City-based Puerto RicanLegal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) came to Providence this past weekend tohelp form the Statewide Latino Voting Rights Committee of Rhode Island.The establishment of this committee was just one part of the Latino Voting RightsConference of Rhode Island, held on Saturday at the Center for Hispanic Policy &Advocacy (CHisPA) on Elmwood Avenue in Providence.The PRLDEF has already facilitated such conferences and established similar committeesin Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Florida.Local activists praised the idea of crafting a committee that would help to ensure better political representation of the state’s Latino community."Part of our mission here at CHisPA is to look at this issue strategically," CHisPAExecutive Director Luisa Murillo said. If we can ensure that the [district] lines are drawnto better represent our community in the legislature, that benefits CHisPA and our entirecommunity." Noting that the conference brought out a very multicultural crowd,
Tomas Avila,treasurer of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee, said, "We may callit the Latino Voting Rights Project, but redistricting doesn’t know race or ethnicity.It affects everyone."
Redistricting is the process by which lawmakers redraw district lines for seats in the stateSenate, state House, and U.S. Congress. The process, which takes place every 10 years, is based upon new population data garnered from the U.S. Census.This year, the General Assembly has also been given the charge to downsize itself, further complicating the redistricting process. Angelo Falcon, PRLDEF’s senior policyexecutive, impressed upon those in attendance that redistricting is not merely a politicalissue, but also a civil rights issue.While Falcon noted that redistricting is an exercise in "€community empowerment,"€ he
cautioned that it is not a cure-all. "We must also vote, field candidates for office, and raisemoney," he said.