BAKER — The City Council is scheduled to vote on a redistricting plan for council elections Tuesday, but, in a sense, the vote was taken Sept. 13 when a demographer first introduced two possible plans based on 2010 census figures.
At that meeting, the council voted 4-1 to introduce a proposed ordinance for final action Tuesday that establishes districts as drawn in “Plan 1” and presented by William Blair, of Redistricting LLC.
Council members Jimmy Pourciau, A.J. Walls, Charles Vincent and Carlon Simpson voted to introduce the Plan 1 ordinance, while Councilman Fred Russell dissented.
Russell said one of his objections is that part an area of Buffwood subdivision was moved from his District 5 to District 4.
Russell tried to introduce a rival ordinance for Tuesday’s consideration based on the demographer’s “Plan 2,” but Russell was the only member to vote in favor of his motion. Vincent seconded Russell’s motion but voted against it.
Russell said he hasn’t given up on putting Plan 2 to a council vote on Tuesday.
“There’s only one plan, and that’s Plan 1,” Walls said.
“I don’t know why Fred thinks there are still two plans,” Simpson added.
Public bodies are required to redistrict after every federal census to reflect population changes.
Although the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Baker’s population grew by only 122 people from 2000 to 2010, the major change reflected in the 2010 headcount was the continued growth of Baker’s black population.
In 2000, black people made up 52.4 percent of Baker’s population, but the 2010 census reports the number of black residents grew to 77.3 percent of the total population of 13,810.
The number of black voters did not top 50 percent of the total registration until 2003, however, and Pourciau and Russell, who are white, won seats in majority-black districts in 2004 and 2008.
Simpson and Walls, who are white, now have majority-black voter registrations in their current districts.
In 1991, Baker switched from at-large balloting for council members to single-member districts, with a voter-approved city charter amendment guaranteeing that one of the five districts would have a black majority.
Leroy Davis won that seat in 1992, and Charles Vincent, currently the only black councilman, has represented the district since Davis was elected to one term as mayor in 2001.
Voter registration percentages for the proposed new districts are not available yet, but the black voting-age population in the five districts ranges from 79.8 percent in District 5 to 59.6 percent in District 2.
The U.S. Department of Justice also must “preclear” the voting district changes before elections are held under the redistricting plan.
The council elections are scheduled March 24, and candidates may qualify to run for the council seats from Dec. 7 to Dec. 9.
The Secretary of State’s Office must get notice of the Justice Department’s approval by Nov. 30 in order for the election to proceed as scheduled, state Commissioner of Elections Angie Rogers said.