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Latino Groups Befuddled by Election Rulings

The five-man panel in charge of redrafting state House and Senate district lines, after its original plan was rejected by the state Supreme Court, has postponed a meeting for voting on a preliminary map for the second time. The indefinite delay is another blow to Latino advocates, who want to avoid going back to the old district lines.

To Angel Ortiz, with Latino Lines, equally "mystifying" was the news that special elections will be held on the day of the primary, April 24th, and based on 2001 lines.

"How can you say that one plan is unconstitutional and then go ahead and say, 'Well, you've got to go on the 2001 plan,' which is really unconstitutional?" said Ortiz, a former Philadelphia city councilman. "It makes no sense whatsoever."

Latino Lines pushed to create four majority-Latino House districts under the plan rejected by the state Supreme Court. The high court has said the primary election will be based on 2001 state House and Senate district lines.

The old map only includes one majority-Latino district, and Ortiz said it disenfranchises a Latino population that has grown to at least 700-thousand people in Pennsylvania.

His group says the court's decision not to rule the old 2001 plan unconstitutional disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Latinos, as well as voters throughout the state, whose votes will not carry equal weight.

"It is utterly, utterly laughable to say that the 2001 lines are better than the plan that was rejected by the Supreme Court," said Ortiz. "If it had flaws, then you've got to be able to say, 'Fix the flaws,' but you cannot go back."

One person allied with the Latino redistricting groups likened the whole affair to playing the Superbowl with a team from last year.

Also sympathetic to the Latino group's cause is the state GOP, whose House and Senate leaders and spokesmen have dropped the coalition's name at every opportunity as proof enough that their redistricting plan had its share of redeeming values.