In four weeks, residents of Lafayette Parish will go to the polls for an historic election, casting votes for the first time in more than 25 years for separate Lafayette City Council and Lafayette Parish Council representatives.
The council split was approved by voters in December via a home rule charter amendment. The amendment replaces the nine-person City-Parish Council with a five-person city council and a five-person parish council. Voters should be aware of changes to their voting districts as a result.
For instance, instead of every voter in Lafayette Parish casting ballots for a single City-Parish Council member, in the Oct. 12 election every voter in the parish will select a parish council member. The parish council districts will be larger with the reduction from nine to five.
Voters in the city of Lafayette will cast a second vote Oct. 12, this one for their representative on the new Lafayette City Council. Voters in five other municipalities in the parish retained their mayors and city or town councils in 1996 when the Lafayette City Council and Lafayette Parish Council became one body under consolidated government.
The vote to split the councils did not split the mayor-president position. The city of Lafayette's mayor will continue to also be the Lafayette Parish president.
There are a couple of ways to find out which city council and parish council district you're in now. The first is online through the Louisiana Secretary of State's office. From sos.la.gov, click the Geaux Vote box. On the next screen in the top grey box that says Are You a Voter, click Sample Ballot. On the next screen, click Search by Voter. When the next screen comes up, type in your name, Zip code and birth month and year to produce a sample ballot of everything that will show up in the voting booth specific to you.
If you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters Charlene Meaux said maps of the new city and parish council districts are displayed on walls in the hall outside her office at 1010 Lafayette St. in downtown Lafayette, or voters can call her office at 291-7140.
Residents who aren't registered to vote have until Sept. 11 to register in person at the Registrar of Voters Office or by mail. The deadline is Sept. 21 to register online through the Secretary of State Office.
The election isn't the only big event happening in Lafayette Oct. 12. It's also the weekend the city hosts Festivals Acadiens et Creole. Voters who plan to attend the festival may want to vote early.
Early voting is from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sept. 28 through Oct. 5 at the Registrar of Voters Office, 1010 Lafayette St., except on Sunday, when the office is closed, Meaux said.
Fifteen people qualified to run for the five city council seats. Twelve qualified for the five parish council seats.
Five people are in the race for Lafayette mayor-president. Joel Robideaux is not seeking re-election. In the race are Carlee Alm-LaBar, no party, from Lafayette; Simone Champagne, Republican, from Youngsville; Josh Guillory, Republican, from Lafayette; Carlos Harvin, Democrat, from Lafayette; and Nancy Marcotte, Republican, from Lafayette.
The mayor-president candidates are expected to participate in a forum from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. today at the Clifton Chenier Center, 220 Willow St., Lafayette, sponsored by the Lafayette Parish NAACP Unit 6060 and the Senior Pastoral Alliance of Southwest Louisiana. The event is open to the public.
OneAcadiana and KATC are hosting a mayor-president candidate forum from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, 101 Vermilion St., in downtown Lafayette. KATC is expected to broadcast the forum live.
The new city and parish councils will be seated in January.