Montebello resident Mari Miranda was looking forward to voting for mayor of Los Angeles on June 7 only to find out she is ineligible. In an election that will bring new representation for a city in despair, who exactly benefits from that representation becomes complicated for people not well-versed in the differences between county and city politics

Los Angeles County holds 88 cities, including the city of Los Angeles, which operates separately from the city of Montebello where Miranda resides. Los Angeles city has a mayor, 15 city council members operating as the legislative branch, a city attorney and city controller. While Miranda is not represented by the city of Los Angeles, she is represented by the city of Montebello, which has its own mayor. 

Larger cities like Los Angeles have their own fire and police department. Smaller cities have to contract Los Angeles County to provide those services. It becomes a case-by-case issue depending on which city someone resides in. 

Matters complicate when considering all the “unincorporated areas” in Los Angeles County. These areas contain some urbanized lands that have no connection to Los Angeles but are still represented by the county. These communities, like Rowland Heights, had three options at one point or another in their history. 

The three options are as follows: for said area to become a part of Los Angeles, to become their own city, or to remain put under the full influence of L.A. County. There are 76 unincorporated communities in Los Angeles County. These unincorporated communities are solely represented by the county, much to some folks’ dismay.

Take East Los Angeles as an example, which has tried over the past 60 years to obtain cityhood a total of five times. This is especially important in recognizing that the majority of residents in East L.A. are Latinos fighting issues like gentrification with minimum representation.

This is not considered a matter of voter suppression, as these unincorporated communities are not even in the picture to begin with. 

That being said, the confusion that led to disappointment for Miranda is fueled by another issue that is less flagrant but more pervasive. It speaks to the lack of political socialization that the Latino community is afforded during elections. Political operatives are only just now starting to acknowledge the large divide that must be crossed in order to reach Latinos where they are.