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Cleveland Council Approves Ward Map, But Questions Remain

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Cleveland City Council voted to approve a new retooled ward map that cuts down the number of council members from 19 to 17. But as ideastream’s Nick Castele reports, there are lingering issues remaining.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Cleveland City council is required to redraw its ward boundaries after the Census to reflect the changing population. In the past decade, the overall population has dropped, but the number of Hispanic residents has increased.

José Feliciano is a lawyer in Cleveland who chairs the Hispanic Roundtable. He says he wanted the city’s Ward 14 to be 50 percent Hispanic, ensuring Hispanic voters have more say in city affairs.

FELICIANO: “There are less than 400,000 people here. More than 10 percent of the population is Hispanic. And there are no Hispanic councilmen.”

In the latest version of the map, the ward is 41.4 percent Hispanic.

Feliciano says he filed a public records request for draft ward maps and maps showing the distribution of Hispanic residents. If the evidence shows that council could have drawn a 50 percent Hispanic ward, but didn’t, he says, the Roundtable would consider suing for violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Council President Martin Sweeney, who closely oversaw drawing ward boundaries, says he did the best he could to increase the Hispanic population in the ward while also taking natural and neighborhood boundaries into consideration.

SWEENEY:”I think we treated the Hispanic community with the utmost respect, and having 41.4 percent of a district block in Ward 14 I think was a very good effort on the City Council’s part.”

Council members approved the ward map 14 to 4. All council seats are up for election this November.

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