George Swift column: Census data key to redistricting

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

By George Swift

Preliminary 2020 Census numbers show that Louisiana’s population increased by 2.7 percent to over 4.7 million people.  Only 19 of the 64 parishes increased population or remained the same. The rest of the parishes lost population. The area of Southwest Louisiana increased 5.1 percent. In Calcasieu Parish, the total population went from 192,768  to 216,785.

The city of Lake Charles had the most growth of communities in our five-parish region and is the sixth-largest city in the state. In the 2010 Census Lake Charles had a population of 72,531. The new figures show 84,872. This reflects the thoughts of several area observers prior to the hurricanes of 2020. The question is, now, how many residents remain here or are coming back when housing is available?

Sulphur had a slight decrease to 20,021, down by 1.8 percent. Neighboring Carlyss had a 12.3 percent increase to 5,248.

Westlake has 5,053 residents, up over 10 percent. Vinton with 3,148 residents decreased by 7.4 percent. Iowa increased 2.7 percent to 3,078 residents, with DeQuincy losing 6.78 percent to 3,012 residents.

Moss Bluff, an unincorporated community showed 11,055, down 4.3 percent.

Cameron Parish was one of the hardest hit parishes with a population loss from 6,839 to 5,617.

DeRidder with 10,370, was down 2.4 percent. Beauregard Parish had a 5.2 percent increase with total population at 36,549.

Jennings lost 7.92 percent to 9,562 residents. Welsh had a very slight loss of less than 1 percent to 3,203. Jeff Davis Parish now has 32,250, down by .7 percent.

Oakdale now shows 7,549 residents, down 2.8 percent. Kinder lost 4.7 percent residents for 2,354. Allen Parish 22,750 people, down by .5 percent.

Complete data is available. For example, in Lake Charles the racial composition is 47.6 percent Black or African American, 46.83 percent white, Two or more races, 2.35 percent, and Asian 1.88 percent. The Lake Charles median age is 36.2. Average earnings are $32,301. The Lake Charles median household income is $42,942. There is an overall 22.8 percent poverty rate, about 32 percent among Blacks and 12 percent among whites.

The population of the five parishes of the SW La. region, now totals 313,951. Further analysis will help us chart our course as a state and region. These census numbers will be used in redistricting for our congressional seats, legislative and local election districts.

A review of the congressional population districts shows the 3rd Congressional District held by Clay Higgins has about 785,824 residents. The target goal of each district is 776,293, so only about 9,531 too many. District 1 currently held by Steve Scalise has 36,292 too many residents, and District 6 held by Garret Graves has 40,173 too many. District 4 held by Mike Johnson is 47,947 short, and District 5 held by Julia Letlow is 37,049 short. District 2, formerly held by Cedric Richmond, now held by Troy Carter has the least variance at about 1,001 short. Redrawing the Congressional districts will be closely watched.  Some African American legislators are pushing for two minority majority districts since the African American population in the state is about 33 percent.  Of the six congressmen, two would then likely be Black.

The two northern districts, 5 and 6, need more people. The northern districts could be configured to have a I-20 District and a Central Louisiana District with the other four districts divided into contiguous districts that keep communities with similar characteristics together.  Hint: keep the Lafayette and Lake Charles metros in the same district.

George Swift is president/CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. Contact him at 337-433-3632 or gswift@allianceswla.org.