The civil rights group that vowed to sue Orange County, Fla., leaders for failing to carve out a majority political district for Hispanics has yet to take its fight to court despite bypassing its mid-July threatened deadline.
Officials at the New York City-based Latino Justice argued that Orange's borders dilute Hispanic voting strength and warned late last month that it would "immediately bring suit" if there were no moves to change the county's new political boundaries by July 15.
Orange legal officials quickly rejected that idea, and no further talks have taken place. Yet almost two weeks after the group's deadline, no lawsuit has emerged.
"It's normal delays. We're still moving forward," said spokesman John Garcia. "It's going to happen."
In a tense redistricting fight last year, Hispanic, black and Democrat Party activists asked Orange commissioners to create one district that contained about 50 percent voting-age Hispanics, arguing it would help ensure elected Latino representation on Central Florida's most powerful elected board.
Instead, Orange commissioners approved a new boundary plan that slightly reduced the existing voting-aged Latinos in the historically Hispanic District 3 seat from 41 percent to 38 percent.
After a population surge in the past decade, Hispanics now make up 27 percent of the county. An elected Latino has historically held the District 3 seat over the past two decades.
However, the 2010 removal of Commissioner Mildred Fernandez on corruption charges broke that streak. Two temporary appointees replaced her: the first was a non-Hispanic, Lui Damiani, who was later replaced by John Martinez, the Cuban-American son of former U.S.Sen. Martinez.
Damiani and four other candidates are vying to win this newly-carved seat, and they face off in an Aug. 14 primary. The other candidates include a pair of non-Latino Republicans, Pete Clarke and Lydia Pisano, and GOP candidate Eric Lasso, who has a Spanish and Panamanian background. Democrat Michael Aviles, who is half Puerto Rican and Columbian, is also in the race.
Given the large field, it's likely no candidate would capture the 50 percent-plus one needed to claim victory, so the top two candidates would likely move on to a Nov. 6 runoff.
In another Pennsylvania case, Latino Justice lawyers asked a federal court to hold special elections in 2013 -- right after this fall's ballot contests -- so state lawmakers run in fairly drawn districts.
Garcia said the group is not awaiting the outcome of Orange's District 3 primary before deciding whether to file suit.
"It's not that Machiavellian," Garcia said. "It's just normal delays."
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