ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County commissioners spent much of Tuesday afternoon listening to voters who think the board stacked the deck against Hispanics.
The commission approved new voting districts in 2011, sparking a civil rights lawsuit. Commissioners on Tuesday had been expected to vote on spending $340,000 to hire an outside law firm to defend the redistricting plan, but that item was pulled from the agenda.
Rep. Alan Grayson was given the first chance to speak at the commission meeting Tuesday, a courtesy as an elected official.
He took the podium and then accused the commission of being unrepresentative, the result of gerrymandering.
"Democracy is when voters choose elected officials, not elected officials choosing their voters," he said.
Grayson got cheers, but not from Orange County commissioners who
he accused of defending voting districts that he said divide Hispanics and dilute their power at the polls.
"They clearly, consciously decided to divide the Hispanic vote here locally in order to dilute the Hispanic vote and to deprive Hispanics of their representation on this council," said Grayson.
The board did not comment on the lawsuit, but did cite the names of Hispanics who'd been elected in years past and others recently appointed to county boards.
"I think they're on the defensive," said community activist Doug Head. "They should be on the defensive, and they're going to remain on the defensive until there's a resolution to the sense in the community that they truly have representation in this county commission."
There was no explanation from commissioners why the item was removed from the agenda Tuesday.
It's unclear if the item may come back up or if criticism of the spending was enough to get the idea killed.