Although Lafayette Consolidated Government including members of the City-Parish Council have yet to receive official notification via a letter, The Ind has learned that the redistricting plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice has received preclearance. It’s the first and the major hurdle the plan must clear in order to become the official delineation of council districts in Lafayette Parish for the next decade. With DOJ’s blessing, the plan will now go the Lafayette Registrar of Voters and to the Louisiana Secretary of State.
Following up on a tip, we contacted DOJ Tuesday morning and were emailed the letter from T. Christian Herren Jr., the chief of the Voting Section in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to Nancy Jensen, the Baton Rouge demographer hired to help the council redraw its districts.
“The Attorney General does not interpose an objection to the specified changes,” Herren writes, referring to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, andadding a caveat: “However, we note that Section 5 expressly provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin the enforcement of the changes.” Translation: The plan is fine. Implement it.
CPC Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux, who presided over the at-times contentious redistricting process, says while he’s only received verbal notification that the plan was accepted, he’s pleased with the outcome. “I think the process worked,” he says. “Council districts are in place now for the next 10 years.”
Lafayette’s CPC districts, like virtually all political subdivisions in Southern states, must get clearance from DOJ because Louisiana remains subject to the federal Voting Rights Act. Lafayette was required to maintain two black-majority districts as part of its post-2010 census redistricting plan. Obviously the plan approved by the council managed to do that, but not without some migration of council district lines and the transfer of precincts among council members. Councilman William Theriot of District 9 was outspoken during the process in his opposition to losing some precincts in the Milton area where he enjoys strong support, but he did ultimately lose those precincts to District 8’s Keith Patin.
“It had gotten drawn out just a little bit,” Boudreaux says of the process this past spring. “As you know, there were a number of proposals that came forward and I think that Department of Justice standards as well as secretary of state standards kind of forced us to do what we would consider to be the right thing and avoid the gerrymandering and things of that nature.”
Once the plan is formalized, voters in precincts that have moved from one district to another will be notified of the changes via the registrar. The Lafayette Parish School Board must now decide whether it will use the CPC districts — the two bodies have had common district lines for the last decade — or devise its own plan.
Boudreaux is likely to announce DOJ's preclearance at Tuesday's City-Parish Council meeting.
A pdf of the plan approved by the council, known formally as Plan 5b1, can be viewed here.