Special to the Vanguard
While Latinos in Yolo County were recently able to elect a candidate of choice under the current map, some of the proposed maps under review would remove the Latino electorate from that candidate.
That’s the conclusion of a report from the UCLA Voting Rights Project (UCLA VRP) who issued a memo to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors urging them to reject the current draft plans that would split the Latino vote in the only supervisorial district where a Latino official has been elected, with draft plans 1-3 raising the greatest concerns.
The proposed maps would dilute the Latino vote by taking out a significant amount of the Latino population out of District 5, which includes north Woodland, Knights Landing, Yolo, Madison, Esparto and Capay Valley. The memo is intended to highlight the impact that the current map proposals have on the growing Latino electorate before final map decisions are made.
“There is no logical reason to reduce the Latino population in the existing District 5. Yolo County’s Latino population has only recently been able to exercise their political power after 10 years and county officials cannot adopt a map that would undermine that power,” said Sonni Waknin, UCLA VRP managing attorney and voting rights counsel.
According to the 2020 Census, Yolo County’s Latino population has grown by nearly 11,000 residents in the last decade. Specifically in District 5, the Latino voting population has grown by 6% during that time frame, now making up 40% of the electorate in that district.
Supervisor Angel Barajas was elected to the supervisorial seat in 2020, and the memo states that current proposed maps would imperil the ability of Latino voters to continue electing their candidates of choice in District 5. Failure to protect the Latino vote could put the Board of Supervisors and the County in conflict with state and federal voting rights regulations.
In March 2020, Angel Barajas, a former Woodland Councilmember defeated long time incumbent supervisor Duane Chamberlain by a narrow margin of just 443 votes or 4.74 percent.
“Barajas’ election marked a monumental moment in Yolo County as he became the first Latino elected to Yolo County’s Supervisor Board to represent Woodland,” the report stated.
Currently the 5th Supervisorial District consists of north Woodland as well as the communities of Knights landing, Yolo, Madison, Esparto, and the Capay Valley.
Though largely rural, the area serves as home to a large Latino electorate that has grown over the past 10 years.
Barajas strong support from the Latino electorate led to him winning a slim majority at 52.4% of the total vote compared to his opponent, Chamberlain with 47.6% of the total vote.
Given the closeness of the election in which Barajas received a majority of his support from Latino voters, “decreasing the Latino population in the 5th District would put Supervisor Barajas, and future Latino candidates, at risk of not being electable in this district, and would amount to the intentional dismantling of a currently performing minority district,” the report explained.
When UCLA VRP conducted analysis on voter behavior in the 5th District, “. It is clear that voters as precincts increase in Latino voting strength, support for Barajas increased. In contrast, Chamberlain received strong majority support in precincts with fewer than 20% Latinos. In District 5 election contests, Latino voters vote cohesively and for different candidates than their non-Latino counterparts.”
“In this particular election, Barajas won because of high Latino vote support,” the report says.
However, “Three out of the four of the proposed draft maps that the County has publicized will impermissibly dilute or weaken Latino’s ability to elect candidates of choice because these plans lower the Latino CVAP in the current District 5, leading a new District 5 to not “perform” for Latinos.”
The report found, “The lowering of Latino CVAP would make a new District 5 not perform for Latino candidates of choice just as Latinos were starting to exercise their voting strength.”
The voting rights advocacy think-tank is providing guidance for counties across California to ensure full compliance with the Voting Rights Act in the face of rapid demographic changes over the past ten years.
The UCLA Voting Rights project is an advocacy project housed out of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.