VACHERIE — The St. James Parish Council scrapped its original reapportionment plan and approved an alternative map by a vote of 6-1 on Wednesday night.
The council’s action maintains three strong majority black districts — Districts 4, 5 and 6 — and leaves a fourth, District 2, with a roughly 50-50 split between white and black voters.
Reapportionment is required every 10 years following each U.S. census to align council boundaries with population counts. Information from the 2010 census was made available earlier this year.
The parish’s population was 52 percent black in 2010, new census data show. In 2000, white residents held a 50 percent majority, census data show.
Councilman Ken Brass has said the original plan left two minority-majority council districts and a third with a roughly 50-50 white-black split.
The seven-member council as three black members.
While the alternative improves upon the first map, said Brass, who cast Wednesday night’s lone vote against the plan, he still objects to the District 4 map.
Brass said he opposes the latest District 4 alignment because it splits the town of Lutcher. District 2 formerly encompassed all of Lutcher, while the latest reapportionment plan moves part of Lutcher into District 4.
The council adopted the first plan on May 4 on a 4-3 vote with all three black councilmen opposed. Parish President Dale Hymel Jr. vetoed it on May 5, saying he did not think it would pass U.S. Justice Department review because of the opposition.
On May 9, the council overturned Hymel’s veto on a 6-1 vote and then voted 6-1 to approve the same plan again in a broader show of support at Hymel’s urging.
Two of the council’s three black members, Chairman Ralph Patin and Councilman Charles Ketchens, ended up backing the veto override and the plan they had once opposed.
Former Councilman Whitney Hickman, who led a group of seven St. James residents who filed suit to challenge the original plan, attended the meeting and said the group plans to move forward with another challenge to the alternative plan.
“This is not the plan presented at the public hearings (before the original plan was adopted). It was not published in the journal of record,” he said.