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A Hispanic rights group has filed a federal lawsuit charging that congressional and state Senate redistricting plans approved by California lawmakers dilute the power of Hispanic voters. In the suit, filed Monday, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund claims the plans violate the U.S. Constitution and federal Voting Rights Act. “It is unacceptable and illegal to jeopardize the voting rights of historically disenfranchised minority voters,” said Antonia Hernandez, president and general counsel of MALDEF. The suit claims that in two locations — one in the Los Angeles area and the other in San Diego — congressional districts were drawn to keep any one district from having enough Hispanic voters to elect a Hispanic candidate. The suit also claims that the plan illegally packed Hispanic voters into a Southern California state Senate district instead of creating two districts with Hispanic majorities. Critics of the plan say parts of it were devised to protect non-Hispanic incumbents. The lawsuit asks the court to block the use of the new districts and to impose its own redistricting plans if state lawmakers and the governor fail to adopt new plans in time for next year’s elections. A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis defended the redistricting plans. “No plan is perfect and not everybody is going to be happy. But from our perspective the maps produced this year are fair and balanced,” said Roger Salazar. He also noted that Hispanic lawmakers helped draft the plans. The suit is the second to challenge some of the new legislative and congressional districts since Davis signed bills last week implementing the plans. Local officials in San Joaquin County filed a suit on Friday contending the plans violated the state constitution by dividing the county among four Assembly districts, two state Senate districts and two congressional districts. Lawmakers are required to draw new districts every 10 years to reflect population changes found in the census. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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