Gonzales lawyer proposes Minority Voting District in the city

Precincts 36, 37A 37B highlighted

Currently the City of Gonzales’ five Council seats are determined at quadrennial elections conducted city-wide and a Gonzales attorney wants to change that.  Dallon Bush submitted three proposals to alter the city’s at-large seats, but not all five of them.  He offered three proposals that carve out “a minority district” where black voters would significantly outnumber whites.

Multiple calls to Bush’s law office went unanswered so we have no idea if Bush has pitched the plans on behalf of an unnamed client or clients; or why the proposals are being pursued.  Pelican Post obtained a copy of Bush’s January 10, 2019 letter to City Attorney Matthew Percy wherein he wrote:

“Please accept this correspondence in follow-up regarding (City of Gonzales Redistricting).  I trust that you have had an opportunity to speak with the Mayor regarding our meeting approximately three months ago wherein we discussed options to redistrict, such that the City is in compliance with the United States Constitution as it relates to council seats.”

Proposal 1:

A two (2) district plan with a minority district (District 1-one council member to be elected) comprised of precincts 36, 37A & 37B; and, a non-minority district (District 2-four council members to be elected) comprised of precincts 23, 28, 30, 31, 32, 42, 43, 58, & 75.

EDITOR’s NOTE: The precincts comprising Bush’s “District 1” cast 25% of the votes in the last election for Gonzales’ mayor on November 8, 2016.  The voters in 36/37A/37B similarly cast roughly a quarter of all votes in each of five council races.  Would not Proposal 1 disenfranchise a quarter of Gonzales voters in 80% of the council elections?

Proposal 2:

A two (2) district plan with a minority district (District 1-one council member to be elected) comprised of precincts 36, 37A & 37B; a non-minority district (District 2-three council members to be elected) comprised of 23, 28, 30, 31, 32, 42, 43, 58, & 75; and one at-large seat.

Proposal 3:

A three (3) district plan with a minority district (District 1-one council member to be elected) comprised of precincts 36, 37A & 37B; a non-minority district (District 2-one council member to be elected) comprised of precincts to be determined; an additional non-minority district (District 3-two council members to be elected) comprised of precincts to be determined; and, one at-large seat.

Mayor Barney Arceneaux would not offer comment while acknowledging receipt of Bush’s proposal.  Whether the council will take up the proposals remains to be seen.

As a matter of fact the city is NOT in compliance with the Constitution now but, we presume, not for the reasons Dallon Bush thinks.  Section 2-3 in Gonzales’ Code of Ordinances, entitled Councilmen elected by divisions, declares:

Division D is herein and after designated as a black minority division. 

It was enacted in 1992 to ensure at least one black council representative after the city’s first black councilman, Frank Gordon, had already been elected.  27 years later and Gonzales’ population, according to the most recent Census estimates, is almost evenly divided among black and white, with neither comprising a majority.

Most recent Census estimates reflected

In the last Division D election, though, a white candidate (yours truly as it happens) entered the race and was not challenged.

Dallon Bush’s correspondence closed with:

“The above plans are merely proposals and I am open to suggestions on how we can appropriately address this matter…In any event, please contact me upon your receipt of this correspondence so that we can schedule a time to meet and discuss potential resolutions.”

Claston Bernard was a candidate for Division D’s “black minority division” in the November 6, 2012 election.  He termed Bush’s proposal “a solution in search of a problem” and “an awful idea.”  Bernard submitted the following in response to the Bush proposals:

“It robs constituents of choices and protects those wielding power against criticism unnecessarily.  It gives the state full control over who takes power and remains in power.  Better governance is enhanced when more options are available to all residents in our city.

Creating a special council seat, though it seems sincere, is not coming from a place of good intentions, and it is evil.  Creating sections in our city to promote the interest of any group ahead of any other is tribalistic, encourages cronyism and nepotism.

We are a city with great potential.  Segregation was evil in early 20th Century America and doing it today is also evil.  All seats should be open for all races to be challenged.  This would be a perversion of justice since those individuals it is supposed to help would suffer the most as can be seen in many instances, nationally and in our state.”

Bernard poses three questions to consider (if Dallon Bush’s proposals are to be taken up):

  1. Do we have equal protection for all voters in the City of Gonzales currently?
  2. Is there disparate impact on any voter within the city by the current system?
  3. Do citizens enjoy fair representation in the current system?