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a759: New map dilutes Haitian vote (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

North Miami sues Miami-Dade over newly drawn commission districts
By Madeline Baró Diaz
Miami Bureau

February 6, 2002

North MIAMI · This city is the first to challenge Miami-Dade County's
redrawn commission districts in federal court, saying the new map dilutes
the voting power of the city's Haitian-American community.

North Miami, a predominantly black city with a large number of Haitian
residents, was previously represented by two county commissioners. It is now
split up into four commission districts.

"We don't want anybody to break our votes and that's just what it is," said
North Miami Mayor Joe Celestin.

In the suit filed Monday, city officials allege that the county's new map is
"racially gerrymandered" and "is an effort to segregate voters into
different County Commission districts based on their race and national

The suit also accuses the county of violating its charter when it expanded
to 13 districts almost 10 years ago. It also says the county prevented
Hispanic residents from participating in the redistricting process by
failing to provide Spanish-language material and conducting redistricting
meetings in English without translators for Spanish-speaking residents.

The suit asks a judge to order the county to redraw the districts. North
Miami leaders want to be represented by two commissioners again.

Murray Greenberg, first assistant county attorney for Miami-Dade, said the
county had not been served as of Tuesday afternoon and could not comment on
the lawsuit.

Last year, North Miami, the county's fourth-largest city, became the
nation's largest city to elect a majority Haitian-American City Council and
a Haitian-American mayor.

Haitian-Americans throughout the county have been trying to gain recognition
as a distinct group in the redistricting process, but official census
figures for the Haitian population do not exist and efforts have so far been

Federal voting laws prevent drawing of districts based solely on ethnicity
or race, but they also prohibit drawing districts that split up nonwhite
groups and dilute their votes. The county map was drawn with the help of
consultants and approved by the County Commission in late 2001.

The majority of North Miami's black residents were put into three
predominantly black districts. The rest went into a majority white district.

Celestin said they proceeded with the suit after he and other North Miami
officials tried to meet with county officials, but were rebuffed and treated

Greenberg said that the North Miami representatives met with county
officials briefly, but left after county officials said they would not
respond to their concerns during the meeting.

"We were there to listen, not to talk," Greenberg said.

Madeline Baró Diaz can be reached at mbaro@sun-sentinel.com or 305-810-5007.
Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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