Latinx Leaders Condemn Common Council’s Refusal to Draw New Districts Reflecting Dramatic Growth of Latinx Population; Demand Second Legal Opinion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 1/14/22

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This morning, a coalition of Latinx leaders joined together for a press conference at City Hall to call on interim Mayor Johnson and the Milwaukee Common Council to seek a second legal opinion on the issue of drawing new aldermanic districts that reflect the dramatic growth of Milwaukee’s Latinx community over the past 10 years. The press conference occurred shortly after a group of Latinx leaders delivered a letter signed by more than 70 Latinx leaders, organizations, elected officials and allies condemning the City Attorney’s legal advice and urging the city to seek outside counsel.

This demand comes in response to the City Attorney’s office’s last-minute and incorrect advice to the Council that every map under its consideration was unconstitutional.  The City Attorney wrongfully advised the Council that it could not consider Latinx populations in drawing a new map to account for the growth of the Latinx community, and that it could only adopt the map vetoed by former Mayor Barrett.

Video of the press conference is available, as well as a media toolkit with photos, are available for members of the press to use.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, said, “In a city with a majority of people of color and some of the worst racial disparities in the nation, and at a time when voting rights are under attack, redistricting is supposed to ensure a voice for the disenfranchised.We call on the Common Council members and the interim Mayor to uphold democratic principles and fair representation for Latinxs that have for decades been ensuring growth and prosperity in Wisconsin and Milwaukee. We are exploring taking legal action because we believe both the outcome and the process is a violation of Latinx voting rights and the larger goal of civil rights.” Read her full remarks here.

Darryl Morin, National President for Forward Latino, said, “The explicit purpose of this counsel should be to review not just Monday’s opinion by the City Attorney, but all advice provided to the Common Council from the City Attorney’s office as well as to provide expert legal guidance moving forward in the process.  Failure to retain outside counsel with this expertise would not just be an affront to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who we are set to commemorate in three days, it would not just unlawfully diminish the vote of communities that have been traditionally underserved and discriminated against, but it would also be an invitation for these communities to bring about time-consuming  and costly litigation.”

Nancy Hernandez, President of the Hispanic Collaborative, said, “The growth of the Latino community is across three aldermanic districts, but it’s important to understand that they need fair voice and representation. Achieving equal representation and being able to cast equal and effective votes depends on those maps that are drawn fairly to reflect and respect all of our communities. That’s at the core of why we’re here. That’s why we’re not just taking what the City Attorney’s opinion is as fact, that’s why we’ve engaged other expert council on this issue. That’s why we feel firmly that the city of Milwaukee and the common council needs to look at disinterested, nationally recognized outside experts to advise on this…We urge them to quickly take action.”

After reading some of the extensive list of Latinx community leaders, organizations, businesses, elected officials and allies who support this effort, Reuben Burgos, President of the Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation, said, “This is a far-reaching group of individuals concerned about the redistricting process and voting rights in Milwaukee, and we just want to make sure it’s fair to everyone.”

In addition to the individuals and organizations who signed onto the letter delivered to Mayor Johnson and the Common Council this morning, other community groups and civil rights organizations have endorsed these efforts to increase Latinx representation in Milwaukee, including the Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) United Migrant Opportunity Service (UMOS), and Wisconsin Voices.

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CONTACT: Anna Dvorak, 414-469-0118, anna@vdlf.org