New election districts proposed in Calcasieu

Published 7:39 am Saturday, May 21, 2022

Calcasieu Parish police jurors during Thursday’s regular meeting got their first glimpse at the proposed redrawing of the parish’s 15 election districts.

Cade Cole, an attorney and consultant for the parish, said Calcasieu’s population, based on 2020 U.S. Census data, is 216,780. That’s up 12.45 percent from the 2010 census. Had it not been for the severe damage from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, the population would likely have been higher, Cole said.

Federal redistricting laws limit a population change to plus or minus 5 percent. Some districts in Calcasieu grew or dropped by more than that. Cole said the ideal population per district is 14,452, with the 10 percent range allowing for 13,730 at the lowest and 15,174 at the highest.

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Districts 3 and 4, in the northern part of Lake Charles, had the highest percentage drops in population, around 10 and 11 percent. Meanwhile, Districts 7, 8, 9 and 10 — the entire southern corridor of Lake Charles, along with the Gillis and LeBleu Settlement areas — saw significant upswings in population.

The redrawn map shows District 12 as having the largest percentage drop, at 4.62 percent, followed by District 14, down 3.65 percent. District 2 has a 4.21 percent increase, followed by 3.95 percent in District 10.

Redistricting must be done every 10 years. The process must start within six months of the census being released, as long as the districts have substantial variation. Unlike Congress, the state Legislature and other government bodies, the police jurors approve redistricting plans. State law requires a Police Jury to have between five and 15 single-member districts.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires updated redistricting plans to have a fair chance for minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice. Plans cannot weaken that through fracturing minority communities or packing minority voters into fewer districts.

Four majority-minority districts in Calcasieu Parish must be protected under federal law, Cole said. The proposed plan lists those as Districts 2, 3, 4 and 9.

The redistricting proposal is subject to amendments during the discussion process, Cole said.

Public comments on the proposed plan will be accepted until June 23. To make comments, email or call 721-3500.

A public hearing and comment session on the proposal will take place at 6 p.m. June 2 at the Police Jury meeting room, 1015 Pithon St.

The full Police Jury will consider the plan and take final action on the plan at its regular meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. June 23.

Once the plan is approved, it will take effect for the fall 2023 election. Those elected will represent the updated districts, starting Jan. 1, 2024.