Demographer to take questions at town hall on Thursday

Demographer Mike Hefner talks to the Iberia Parish Council about the redistricting and reapportionment of voting precincts resulting from the most recent U.S. Census. This fall’s reduction of voting precincts in the parish from 57 to 37 was a temporary measure because full data from the Census was not complete at the time. The number of precincts should be above 50 when the next elections come about, though a drop and shift in population has led to consolidation of some precincts.

For the second time on a month, the public will have an opportunity to ask questions about redistricting and reapportionment in Iberia Parish, including the redistricting plan that lowered the number of polling places and precincts for this fall’s election, which has now been moved back to November.

Demographer Mike Hefner will take questions during a town hall to be held Thursday evening at the Iberia Parish School Board Educational Center, 1204 Lemaire St., about the redistricting and reapportionment process that occurs every 10 years when a new national census is published.

During a town hall held on Aug. 24 at the Sliman Theater, many residents asked Clerk of Court David Ditch and Registrar of Voters Kristie Blanchard questions about the process, but they were unable to answer many of the more detailed questions about how the redistricting was accomplished, especially for the upcoming election.

Hefner has briefed the Iberia Parish Council on the process several times, explaining that the reduction of precincts to 37 for the fall election was a temporary measure while data from the U.S. Census was still pending. The voting rolls for that election had to be closed prior to more detailed data came out. Hefner said that the number of precincts will increase again for the spring municipal elections, climbing to above 50 but less that the previous 57 precincts.

Some of those precincts are going away due to consolidation between two or more precincts that have low numbers of voters. The reapportionment process is designed to rebalance the precincts to account for demographic changes and population shifts over the previous decade.

In Iberia Parish, there was an overall population drop of about 5 percent over the last 10 years, which will require some redistricting to occur.

In the last reapportionment, both the Iberia Parish Council and Iberia Parish School Board adopted the same district map, which simplified the voting process because all of the districts remained the same for both bodies.

Residents from the West End neighborhood raised questions at the Aug. 24 event about the closure of polling places at Sugarland Elementary School which will force voters to go to Coteau to cast their ballots.

Former 16th Judicial District Judge Lori Landry appeared before the Iberia Parish Council last month to condemn what she called the disenfranchisement of Black voters through the redistricting process.

“The main issue is not just precincts,” Landry said. “This move closes eight polling places, five of them in predominantly African-American communities. The council is now saying it’s not wanting to close polling places, but when you voted for this in 2019, it started down this path.”

The town hall meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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