BREAUX BRIDGE — The St. Martin Parish School Board heard a presentation from demographer Mike Hefner on the beginning of the reapportionment process following the 2010 U.S. Census at a special meeting Wednesday.
The board has until Dec. 31, 2012, to complete the process for the U.S. Department of Justice, but, Hefner said, he wants to start the process early in order to have time to address problem districts that lost population.
Hefner said ideally all St. Martin Parish districts would have 5,216 people with a plus or minus 5 percent margin — which would divide the parish population evenly between its 10 districts, but that’s not how the population is distributed.
Two of the three School Board minority districts, Districts 2 and 3 in St. Martinville, could be a “major problem” because they lost population to the northern part of the parish, Hefner said.
Districts 4 and 8 gained population and will likely have to give up people to even the districts, creating a “domino effect” with neighboring districts, Hefner said.
“A main issue in the parish is the population is moving north,” Hefner said. “There is a heavy decline in the populations of the southern part of the parish around St. Martinville.”
Hefner said to preserve Districts 2 and 3 as minority districts, the Justice Department would likely allow the two districts to deviate from having a population of 5,216 people and instead, let them maintain smaller populations.
“If these districts deviate as much as 10 or 11 percent, the DOJ will check to ensure the move is made to preserve minority districts, but they will allow it,” Hefner said. “They want to be sure all the reapportionment plans are not discriminatory.”
He also said the board members “know their districts better than anyone” and could best help with the process by suggesting solutions to problems as they arise.