Latino Voting Power In Nebraska Diminished

Last week in our national Latino redistricting roundup, we reported that in Nebraska Latino voter power was set to be diminished under a recently adopted redistricting plan. This week the group Somos Republicans wrote a little more extensively on the redistricting, an excerpt from a press release notes:

Omaha has one of the largest and most vibrant Latino populations in the Great Plains region, including a majority Latino population in South Omaha. South Omaha even has one of America’s few Latino museums.

Many politicians participated in the parade, but noticeably missing from the parade were any Latino state legislators. Nebraska has no Latino state legislators, and in 144 year history as a state there has only been one Latino legislator, Ray Aguilar, from Grand Island, who left due to term limits. According to the 2010 census, 9% of Nebraskans are Latino. Of 49 state senators, one would expect 4-5 state senators who are Latino, and yet there are none. Neighboring Kansas is 9.3% Latino, and has five Latino state legislators.

There is no lack of qualified Hispanic candidates in South Omaha. South Omaha leader Rebecca Barrientos-Patlan ran in 2008 for State Senate, losing to former Ben Nelson staffer Heath Mello, who was heavily backed by the Democrat Party. South Omaha has never had a Latino legislator is due in part the current districting scheme, which divides South Omaha into several legislative districts, and combines South Omaha neighborhoods with very different neighborhoods outside the area, such as the upscale condo area just south of downtown Omaha, and part of suburban Sarpy County.

The Omaha World-Herald reported that the city’s Latino voting population was split between two districts under the current plan, although there was some controversy about creating one majority Latino district. The paper goes on to say that a May 13 hearing will allow for people to comment on this current Latino vote-splitting plan. The Nebraska State Paper noted that “The officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature has a solid Republican majority, and those with the majority draw the lines.” KVNO news seconded that sentiment.

Ultimately, it’s bad for the entire state of Nebraska if the Latino vote is not represented. What happens if you have a sizable and growing portion of the population that is being disenfranchised? Discontent, resentment and nothing good, one can glean from the often violent and painful suffrage movements for women in the 1920s and minorities in the 1960s. Let’s hope that for Nebraska, and the other states in our redistricting sights, there’s still hope for equal representation.

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD

[Image By Darwinek]

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