By Emily Burleigh
Reapportionment plans for the City of Lake Charles were discussed at last week’s City Council meeting.
Attorney Cade Cole gave a presentation regarding the proposed district changes.
Cole stated that the process of creating the reapportionment plans was a culmination of the city’s redistricting effort that takes place every 10 years.
“Traditional federal principles on redistricting that you are supposed to consider are: can you keep the districts as compact as possible, and all the territory has to be continuous to itself,” he said. Cole continued by explaining that according to state statutes, this actually means that the precincts have to be continuous to each other.
“You do the cores of the existing districts, which means you try to keep the traditional pattern of the historical districts to the extent that you can. You try to keep communities of interest together so that every community would have its own representation on the council. You try not to put two incumbents together, and you comply with the voting rights act. Those are the factors that are considered.”
The Voting Rights Act provides nationwide tests to ensure the fairness of voting districts.
These tests are No Discriminatory Effects Test and “a test about minorites electing their choice of candidate and voter dilution,” Cole said. “It basically protects the majority/minority districts that are in place in the city.”
“But you can’t use race as the predominant or overriding factor behind drawing a district. You are prohibited from drawing a district that is not able to be explained on race-neutral traditional principals.”
After the census, it was determined that Northern districts A, B, and C were significantly underpopulated. Southern districts F and G were overpopulated.
“Basically, what you get… is a continued growth along a Southern corridor, and continued depopulation in other areas,” he said. “So, you’re trying to equalize that out and move the districts by getting more population in A,B, and C and taking precincts from F and G.”
Lake Charles showed growth in population, with a new approximate total of 85,000 citizens.
After consultation, 2 versions of the new districts were created.
“This does not affect anything until the next set of elections,” stated Cole. “So, your current districts stay in place until the conclusion of this term, and this will go into effect with the next elections in 2025.”
The original redistricting plan, Plan A, made changes to all 7 districts. According to Cole, District A would absorb an area that includes St. Louis High School. District B was moved further South towards the precinct containing LaGrange High School. District C would remain mostly the same except for the inclusion of the Eastern half of a precinct next to Highway 14. District D would now include the College Oaks area, and District E would pick up Western territory close to Country Club.
These changes account for the overpopulation in District F and G. However, the alteration in District F proved to be challenging. “Getting F right took a lot of attention… this only removed one precinct from F to try to get it where it was within both the demographic and population target.”
The proposed Plan B keeps the redistricting mostly the same, sans 3 precincts. “It basically flips 3 precincts… it has the effect of giving the Morganfield area to Mr. Geyen’s district, removing the terraces and some of that area from Mr. Geyen’s district and moving it into Mr. Marks’ district,” explained Cole. “Otherwise, the Southpark area… would also be added to Mr. Geyen’s district.
Ultimately, the growth corridor along the Southeastern part of the city would be moved to District C from District F.
The vote on the ordinance to adopt Plan B was 5 to 1.
Those that voted for were Luvertha August, District B, Mark Exkard, District G, Rodney Geyen, District C, Ronnie Harvey, District A, and Craig Marks, District F.
Stuart Weatherford, District E, voted against.
John Ieyoub, District D, was not present.