Redrawing the lines for 11 Parish Council districts is a work in progress, a process whereby the principle of “one-man, one vote” is supposed to be accomplished. Of course, ever since Elbridge Gerry figured out how to pencil-whip the district lines around Boston to favor the Democratic-Republicans over the Federalists it has taken a backseat to partisan political interests. On the parish level it is more about bolstering the chances of incumbency, a truism on display during Monday’s Redistricting Workshop at Ascension Parish’s Governmental Complex
The current map…
The map proposed after the first Redistricting Workshop on November 10…
Geographic Planning & Demographic Services’ (GPDS) Mike Hefner proposed new districts as a starting point prior to November’s first workshop, being sure to retain each incumbent in his/her current district. A first principle along with maintenance of minority voting districts, two of which exist in the current configuration. Then comes the “one man, one vote” thing.
District 1, which lies exclusively on the West Bank currently, has to cross the Mississippi River because of declining population. In November, worried about “watering down” its representation, then Chairwoman Teri Casso declared the necessity; “It needs to be two districts on the west bank.” Five months later and that diktat was discarded because the incumbent, Councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas, decided he wants to retain the cane fields of Modeste.
“It would be good,” asserted the District 1 incumbent. “But if it’s not workable…”
Given that his district seems to be expanding to encompass Pelican Crossing Subdivision along with other east bank areas west of Hwy 44, south of I-10, it is unlikely to save him from electoral doom on October 14, 2023. But Monday’s reconfiguration (see image at top of page) does retain a 66% minority majority, i.e. a district where minorities comprise the majority of voters.
The other minority majority district, District 3, is represented by Councilman Travis Turner who signed off on the November plan which made minimal changes to the current District 3 map.
Given the parish’s shifting population patterns, it is impossible to draw 11 Parish Council districts with anything like uniformity. Densely populated areas mean compact districts in the north, giving way to more expansive geographical boundaries in the south where sparser population demands larger districts.
Two districts in northwest Ascension (Districts 4 and 8) are already within desired population parameters according to Mike Hefner. Two others (Districts 5 and 7) which abut Bayou Manchac to the north and straddle Hwy 42 must lose population to be dispersed to the southeast.
Having reconfigured in November, it was all pretty straightforward even considering two more (Districts 9 and 11) situated directly north of the City of Gonzales.
Council Chairman John Cagnolatti, whose District 10 “has typically included the southern half of Gonzales,” was unsatisfied with November’s map (see yellow area) and the prospect of seeking reelection so far north of the city limits. No problem.
The two precincts in the northwest corner of November’s proposed District 10 were pawned off on Councilman Chase Melancon’s District 6, with District 10 picking up Voting Precinct 33 (bordered by Roddy Road to the west, Churchpoint to the north, Hwy 431 to the east, and Airline Hwy to the south). Which meant that District 2, where Joel Robert is the incumbent, needed to pick up population, having also lost much to District 1.
District 2’s latest configuration sees it expand from Mississippi River’s east bank (at the southernmost part of Ascension) all the way to Hwy 42 and the northwest corner of the parish. Robert, unconcerned by the machinations, did not attend Monday’s workshop.
District 4’s Councilman Corey Orgeron joined Robert in absentia, we suspect for different reasons. Is there a scenario in which Orgeron does not get mauled at the polls in 2023?