ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A lawsuit filed against Orange County over the way new voting district lines were drawn is set to go to court next spring, but only Eyewitness News discovered one way the county could stop the lawsuit.
9 Investigates sat down with the people filing the lawsuit, which claims the districts fail to represent everyone equally in Orange County, and they told anchor Jorge Estevez that adding districts could be an option.
Trini Quiroz was part of the team that actually drafted an early plan to add more districts to Orange County's government.
"More districts, that will give less population to a commissioner to address the needs of those residents,” said Quiroz, a community advocate.
Currently, Orange County has six commissioners sitting in the county chambers. The initial proposal Quiroz and others worked on was to add a seventh district and possibly an eighth, allowing more voters to literally have a seat at the table.
An appointed county committee instead redrew the existing six districts.
Derek Bruce chaired the 15-member panel that drew two districts, both with more than a 40 percent Hispanic population.
"There is not an area that was uniquely tight and compact enough that would have allowed for the creation of a majority Hispanic district," said Bruce.
With no majority Hispanic district, Latino Justice became involved and sued Orange County, claiming it violated the Voters' Rights Act.
“There is no one district that gives Latino voters in Orange County a chance to elect one of their own candidates,” said Juan Cartajena, a lawyer with Latino Justice.
“But there are two districts with more than 40 percent,” Estevez said. “Isn't that enough?”
“No. In our opinion, no,” said Cartajena.
When he was asked about adding more districts, however, the response changed.
“Is that a plan that you would entertain?” Estevez asked.
“Definitely,” Cartajena said.
“Would that make you drop the lawsuit?” Estevez asked.
“That depends. It all depends, but that is something we would consider,” Cartajena said.
It’s something Quiroz has said all along is better for all the people of Orange County.
"When you understand your constituency you can service them better," Quiroz said.
The reason there is such outcry for a majority Hispanic district is because roughly one in three people in Orange County is Hispanic.
Still, the process of adding districts can be quite involved and cost tens of thousands of dollars. The idea has to be approved by the Charter Revision Board and then approved by the County Commission. And finally it would go to a voter referendum.