Debate begins on how to divide Escondido into four voting districts

District elections should help Latinos get elected

ESCONDIDO, Calif. - Escondido residents Thursday began discussing how the city should be divided for future elections.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Latino rights advocates argued the Escondido City Council was not reflective of the people who actually live in the North County city.

"They're really kind of disconnected from what's happening around certain communities," said 22-year-old Escondido resident Laurie Resendiz, who added she's happy the city is going from citywide elections to four separate districts. She thinks it will create a more reflective council.

Creating the four districts will not be easy, as an independent commission needs to consider population size, geographic boundaries and community connections.

Lori Shellenberger with the ACLU said neighborhoods cannot be divided and districts should group similar communities together.

"They all shop at the same grocery stores. They all take public transportation," said Shellenberger.

Most importantly, Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz said a lawsuit filed against the city recommended Latinos, who are now the majority in Escondido, are better represented.

"So there will be one, possibly two, heavily Latino voting districts," said Diaz.

Diaz also said citywide elections prevented Latinos from getting elected.

"I, for example, am the first elected Latina in the history of the city. It took 120 years to get that, right?" she told 10News.

A heavily Latino district will help elect future Latinos get elected, but Resendiz doesn't think it's a good idea to create a district based on race.

"Latinos are everywhere in Escondido," she argued, "and it'd just be hard to pinpoint, 'OK, this is the one where all the Latinos live.'"

However, Resendiz was happy the smaller districts will level the playing field.

"I think it will allow more Latinos to be able to run, especially [if] they have the money to do it," she said.

"It also makes it more feasible to knock on every door in your district," said Diaz, who will still compete in a citywide election when she runs for mayor next year.

"This is the opportunity for them to define their community and to define the districts," said Shellenberger.

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