CONVENT – The St. James Parish Council’s plan to reapportion the seven council districts has been cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice, a spokesman from the Louisiana Secretary of State said Wednesday.
That means qualifying for council elections can happen next week for the Oct. 22 election, said Sailor Jackson, spokesman for the state office.
He said the plan was precleared on Monday, the last day to do so in Louisiana and have an election this fall.
But the Justice Department has not yet, as of Wednesday, precleared three parish police jury redistricting plans. Those parishes will not have police jury elections on Oct. 22, Jackson said.
They are East Feliciana, Avoyelles and Concordia parishes, he said.
The Department of Justice must preclear redistricting plan in Southern states with a past history of racial discrimination to make sure they do not violate the federal Voting Rights Act.
Preclearance from the department, however, does not prevent separate litigation to block and force a change to redistricting plans.
In St. James, residents filed suit on Friday in federal court challenging the plan that the Justice Department later precleared Monday.
The suit seeks to have the plan declared unconstitutional and asks the court to supervise creation of a new plan, online court records show.
An earlier lawsuit seeking to throw out an earlier redistricting plan -- the Parish Council backed it over the parish president’s veto but later went with another version -- was thrown out by the court this summer because of a missed court deadline.
Jackson said that under state elections law, parishes that do not have precleared plans can have their elections on the next available date after their redistricting plans are precleared.
That’s likely on the March election date if plans are approved in time, he said.
While those parishes wait for preclearance, current police jurors will remain in office, Jackson said.