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Riverside County settles lawsuit alleging voter rights violations

IE United Executive Director Sky Allen.
Photo: IE United
IE United Executive Director Sky Allen.

On Wednesday, the County of Riverside settled a lawsuit that alleged that redrawn political maps did not give Latinos equal opportunity to engage in future local elections

The lawsuit settlement between Riverside County, Inland Empire United and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California will look to enhance voter outreach efforts by providing Spanish translation for public notices, agendas and minutes for board of supervisor meetings.

Last June, IE United and the ACLU filed the lawsuit in an attempt to scrap the County’s drawn up maps and force supervisors to adopt new maps. The plaintiffs alleged that the maps violated the state’s constitution, the Voter Rights Act and the FAIR MAPS Act – a law that intends to make redistricting efforts fair and inclusive.

According to Census data, Latinos currently make up 52 percent of Riverside County’s population. Thirty five percent of that population speaks Spanish at home.

IE United’s Sky Allen calls the agreement a “meaningful step” toward full representation.

“I really believe that people don’t feel apathetic about voting or government. They feel helpless, they feel like they’re not being listened to,” said Allen. “So, I hope opportunities like this, where people are saying it doesn’t matter if you speak English or not, you can come and share your voice and we’ll hear you…I think it really matters.”

Riverside County spokesperson Yaoska Machado shared an email statement that the agreement preserves current supervisor district maps and “reflects the County’s ongoing commitment to increase participation in the electoral process.”

The settlement will also require Riverside County to spend money for voter outreach and education efforts in English and Spanish in low voter turnout areas.