PASADENA, Texas - Things are getting ugly in Pasadena.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund is suing the city in federal court over redistricting changes they say were designed to keep latino voters at a disadvantage on election day.
"This change was made on purpose just at the point in time when latinos were poised to elect a 5th member of the city council," Nina Perales with MALDEF said outside the federal courthouse in Houston after filing the lawsuit.
Last year citizens voted to reduce the number of city council districts in Pasadena from 8 to 6 -- essentially getting rid of two geographically-based council seats and replacing them with positions at-large -- the kind anyone can vote for regardless of which district they live in. With the latest census showing hispanics as the emerging majority in Pasadena, latino voters say it was a move designed to keep them from electing city council members from their own neighborhoods.
"The mayor of Pasadena is trying to eliminate two districts in Pasadena and that's not good for the hispanic people," resident Maria Mari says.
While the city has yet to respond, those upset by the new system say it's no coincidence the change came just months after the Supreme Court lifted parts of the Voting Rights Act that required federal approval before cities could change their voting laws.
"Latinos are over 60% of the population, then we should have more representation on the city council and the city business" Alberto Patino explains.
MALDEF hopes their suit will reverse the change and put council seats back in latino neighborhoods where people from the community can vote for them. But what makes their case tough to win is the fact that citizens voted for the change.
Whatever the answer, don't expect changes anytime soon.