Police Jury slated to talk redistricting

Advocate, The (Baton Rouge, LA) - Friday, October 7, 2011
CLINTON - The East Feliciana Parish Police Jury scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in hopes of getting a redistricting plan approved in time for jury elections on March 24. 

The U.S. Department of Justice raised questions about the redistricting plan during the summer that caused the jury to miss the state deadline for having approved plans in time for the regular Oct. 22 elections. 

Earlier this week, the department officially rejected the plan, saying it reduced the black population in District 5, which includes the town of Clinton, when black voters have previously had the opportunity to elect a black juror. 

Larry Beauchamp, who is white, now represents the district. 

Jurors held a special meeting Thursday night to go over a new plan drafted by demographer Nancy Jensen. 

Jensen said she had done everything the Justice Department had suggested in drawing the latest plan, to be presented at next week's special meeting for public comment and possible jury action. 

If the department accepts the changes and approves the plan by Nov. 30, qualifying in the seven districts could be held Dec. 7-9 for an election on March 24, when Louisiana holds its presidential preference election. 

Jensen "tweaked" her proposed plan during Thursday night's special session at the suggestion of Jackson jurors, who pointed out that a small subdivision was divided by a district line. 

Juror John Barnett said the radical changes to the jury districts resulted from removing Dixon Correctional Institute inmates from the redistricting formula, under the threat of a lawsuit by former Juror Ann Reiley Jones over the issue of unequal representation. 

When Barnett asked if the jury could count the inmates - who do not vote - regardless of the lawsuit threat, Jensen said East Feliciana was the only parish that counted inmates for districting purposes and a lawsuit would come eventually. 

Jurors also said the 2010 census was flawed because parish voter records show more registered voters in Lewis Kent's District 7 than the census counted in total population. 

"Do you think your district lost 700 people?" Jury President Dennis Aucoin asked Kent, who replied that he did not think the district lost population.