September 6, 2011 | Fox News Latino | Original Article

New electoral districts open up opportunities for Latinos

Washington -  The re-drawing of more than 10 electoral districts in the United States opens up an opportunity for possible Latino candidates in 2012, if and when they can get the support of the political machinery in their states, experts said on Tuesday.

"The 2010 Census was a wake-up call about the growth of the Latino population in the U.S. and the government, at all levels, needs to reflect that diversity," Astrid Garcia, Redistricting and State Policy Manager for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, told Efe.

"But for there to be more Latino candidates the confluence of several factors is necessary, like the mobilization of voters, (monetary) contributions and the support of the leadership, both of the Democrats and the Republicans," the NALEO expert added.

"We Latinos are an important part of the social fabric of this nation and there has to be a change in the paradigm, in the focus, such that the parties cultivate new Latino leaders," Garcia said.

The idea is that having candidates in districts with Hispanic majorities would respond to the interests and needs of this growing segment of the U.S. electorate.

According to the 2010 Census, U.S. Latinos number slightly more than 50 million people and make up 16 percent of the national population. In addition, over the past decade they contributed more than half of the country's population growth.

States like California, Florida, Nevada and Texas are undertaking a redrawing of their electoral districts. Florida obtained two additional seats in Congress, while Texas - where Latinos contributed to 65 percent of the state's population growth - received an additional four.

At least one in every five voters in 2012 will be Latino in California, New Mexico and Texas, according to NALEO projections.

The United States Hispanic Leadership Institute said that Latinos have the chance to form "viable electoral coalitions" with other blocs to shape the future of the country's main urban centers.

But USHLI, headed by Juan Andrade, feels that there is scanty financial support and training for Latinos to fully participate in the design of the new electoral districts.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a GOP presidential hopeful, is facing a lawsuit in which he stands accused of having manipulated the electoral map, with the help of other Republican politicians, to prevent Latino candidates from winning electoral contests.

The plaintiffs, who include members of Congress and Latino organizations, intend to block the redistricting process proposed by the governor and his legislative allies.