Los Angeles Times
Friday, June 5, 1998
O.C.'s Latino Precincts Voted Strongly Against Proposition
By NANCY CLEELAND, Times Staff Writer
Voters in predominantly Latino precincts in Orange County overwhelmingly
opposed Proposition 227, the anti-bilingual education initiative, according
to a computer-assisted analysis of the vote by The Times.
The proposition failed in two dozen precincts
where Latinos accounted for at least half of the registered voters, primarily
in Santa Ana. In several precincts, the "no" vote in Tuesday's
primary election topped 70%.
That contrasts sharply with the county's
overall vote, which favored the "English for the Children" initiative
The Times analysis, which examined results
from 137 precincts in the central county, showed clearly that as the share
of Latino voters increased, so did opposition to the measure.
Similar results were found in a Times exit
poll of voters throughout the state and in an analysis by the Southwest
Voter Registration and Education Project. The exit poll found that Latino
voters rejected the measure by a 2-to-1 ratio, and the Southwest Voter
analysis, released Thursday, estimated that 64% of Latino voters statewide
were against it.
"If there had been more Latinos voting,
it wouldn't have passed," said Gil Flores of Santa Ana, who is state
president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "But with
the low percentage [of registered Latino voters], we couldn't win it by
ourselves." About 9% of registered voters in Orange County have Latino
The precinct analysis does not take into
account the vote from absentee ballots, which were strongly promoted by
Latino organizations opposed to Proposition 227. And the proportion of
Latinos among those who actually voted in the precincts won't be known
for several more weeks.
The measure requires students to be taught
completely in English after a year or less of remedial classes.
Opponents said some Latinos voted against
the measure because they have children in bilingual classes who would be
affected by the change. But they said there were other reasons for the
strong Latino no-vote too.
For one, Latino voters were targeted by
the anti-227 campaign through direct mail, phone calls and advertisements
on Spanish-language television and radio. "We started educating people,
explaining what it would mean to their children," said Alberto Ortega,
who organized the Orange County No on 227 campaign. "Once we delivered
our message, people changed their minds right away."
For months, Ortega and a crew of volunteers
set up information tables at festivals, made presentations to parents of
bilingual students and sent out thousands of fliers.
"We called every single Latino registered
to vote in Santa Ana," he said. "One of our goals was to educate
Latinos and increase their participation, and I'm glad to see that happened.
This is going to be a long, long process. We cannot turn things around
Manuel Gomez, vice chancellor of student
services at UC Irvine, said Latinos also better understood the implications
of doing away with bilingual education than most voters.
"We who have lived through this know
that immersion doesn't work," he said. "Latinos actually understood
that this sink-or-swim philosophy was cruel and unrealistic for their children,
who would be most directly affected.
"The question is what is the best method
to teach children English, and that was lost in the noise of the campaign,"
Latino community leaders, who were almost
unanimous in their opposition to the initiative, said they had expected
Latino voters to reject it.
"In my circle of friends, we were solidly
against 227," said Amin David, director of Los Amigos, a Latino advocacy
group. "But I do think some Latinos were swayed by the question, 'Do
you want your children to learn English?' Of course, that's what we all
Some of 227's strongest backers in Orange
County were Latino educators, and they said many parents of students with
limited English skills were in favor of the change.
"The majority of Latino parents definitely
want this for their children," said Rosemarie Avila, a Santa Ana Unified
school board member. "They actually get surprised when they find out
their kids are learning in Spanish for so long."