Voters in the Feliciana parishes may find themselves in different voting districts the next time they go to the polls to select school board members, police jurors and parish council members.
Results of the 2020 federal census show that population changes will require the West Feliciana Parish Council, East Feliciana Police Jury and both parishes’ school boards to redraw the districts from which their members are elected.
Mike Hefner, a Duson demographer, is working with the four public bodies to satisfy the federal law that requires each elected official to represent about the same number of people.
Hefner has given the four bodies an analysis of their census figures and sample ordinances to satisfy a state law that they determine if reapportionment is needed to satisfy the “one person, one vote” requirement.
Each of the four must reapportion within six months of the pandemic-delayed census data release in August, Hefner said.
West Feliciana’s official population grew by 4,903 since the 2010 census to a total of 15,310 people, but 5,284 of them are incarcerated at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and are not counted for representation on the Parish Council or School Board.
The number of White people in West Feliciana went from 6,985 in 2010 to 10,883 in 2020, a change from 67.1% to 71.1%.
While the number of Black West Feliciana residents grew by 338 from 2010 to 2020, their percentage of the total population declined from 31.5 to 23.6.
East Feliciana Parish’s population dropped by 728 people between the two federal head counts, with the total now at 19,539 people.
“East (Feliciana) went down, West went up. In both parishes, the percentage of Blacks decreased while Whites increased. Also, the parish populations for both are more integrated than before,” Hefner noted.
East Feliciana’s prison population was put at 1,750.
East Feliciana’s White population grew by 733 to 11,516, a gain of about 5.7%, while the number of Black residents declined by 1,969 people, or 8.4%.
Hefner is working on sample plans to present to the four governing bodies in the near future.
He begins by dividing the total number of residents by the number of seats on each board to determine average or ideal population of each district. Districts may be 5% above or below the ideal number to comply with federal law.
He then adds or removes census tracts from a district to make a balanced map of the districts.
“Modeling for East Feliciana is light to moderate thus far,” Hefner said last week, adding that he is still working on the traditional majority-minority districts to present a sample plan to the Police Jury, which has nine members elected from single-member districts.
Six of the nine jury districts are out of compliance, ranging from 18% too high to 21% under the ideal figure.
The East Feliciana Parish School Board has 12 members elected from a hodgepodge of single- and multimember districts. All but one are out of compliance, according to Hefner’s memo to the board.
“Modeling for West Feliciana is more involved because of minority percentages dropping from 2010 to 2020,” Hefner said. “I’m still working on the best scenario for the majority-minority districts to then present a sample plan to the (Parish) Council,” Hefner said.
The preservation of minority voting strength in the traditional majority-minority districts also is a primary consideration in developing a new plan.
The West Feliciana Parish Council’s membership comes from four single-member districts and a member elected in at-large, parishwide balloting. All four of the districts are out of compliance, but one, District D represented by Justin Metz, is close to compliance with a 6% deviation.
The West Feliciana Parish School Board has seven single-member districts, and all of them are out of compliance with the requirement that their population be within 5% above or below the ideal population of 1,435.
District 2 has 623 more people than the ideal figure, according to Hefner’s report.
In redrawing districts, the boards may take into consideration the current residences of incumbents to avoid members having to run against each other in the next election.
After the 2010 census, the demographer who did the East Feliciana Parish School Board’s plan inadvertently put board member Rufus Nesbitt in another district.
No one caught the error until Nesbitt tried to qualify for reelection and could not run for his old seat. The board later corrected the error, allowing Nesbitt to return to the board in the following election.