A popular local food and wine tasting event scheduled on the same day as the Oct. 12 primary election forced Calcasieu Parish police jurors to move a polling place in the downtown district.
Police jurors voted 8-1 on Thursday to move Voting Precinct 310 from the Calcasieu Parish Courthouse to Carnegie Memorial Library, at 411 Pujo St. The library is 0.2 miles away from the parish courthouse.
The 14th annual Rouge et Blanc event — a fundraiser for the Banners Series at McNeese State University — is being held on the lawns of the parish courthouse and 1911 Historic City Hall for the first time since 2013. At its July 2 meeting, the Police Jury approved an agreement with McNeese to use the courthouse grounds for Rouge et Blanc.
Candace Townsend, McNeese director of public relations and university events, said the date for Rouge et Blanc "is set as soon as the upcoming academic year (July-June) calendar is approved early in the spring semester."
Sam Gabb, the parish's legal counsel, said state law prevents alcohol from being sold near a voting precinct.
Paul Geary was the only resident who spoke against moving the precinct.
"That doesn't look good for us in a democracy," he said. "We know when this election is coming. You're going to put good times over voting; this is serious stuff."
District 4 Police Juror Tony Guillory voted against the move, saying more than 800 voters will be impacted.
"I do think we slipped somewhere," he said of the scheduling conflict. "I've had several phone calls on that."
Dane Bolin, assistant parish administrator, said affected voters will receive notifications in the mail about the new location. During election day, "ample signage" directing voters to the new polling place will be posted throughout the courthouse complex, he said. Staff will also be at the Clerk of Court's office to inform voters.
District 12 Police Juror Judd Bares voiced concerns about a lack of parking near the library. Rouge et Blanc has attracted more than 1,700 patrons in past years.
"Rouge et Blanc ... downtown is a zoo," he said. "They're not going to be able to park to get close enough to find out, ‘Hey, we can't vote here.' "
District 6 Police Juror Dennis Scott asked parish staff to consider helping older voters with transportation needs.
District 7 Police Juror Chris Landry said the problem "didn't happen on purpose," but shouldn't be repeated.
"We certainly can't go back on our word allowing them to use the grounds at this point," Landry said.
Before voting for the precinct change, District 3 Police Juror Shelly Mayo said the decision "gives you heartaches," and added that voters deserved more of an advance notice.
"I'm caught between a rock and a hard place on this one here," she said. "You're going to inconvenience a lot of people on that voting day."
Police jurors Les Farnum, Kevin Guidry, Shalon Latour, Hal McMillin and Sandra Treme were not present at the meeting. Because there wasn't a tie-breaker, Police Jury President Kevin White did not vote on the item.