CLINTON — The East Feliciana Parish School Board plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed redistricting plan, the first that excludes Dixon Correctional Institute inmates from the population of a Jackson district.
Under a threat of a lawsuit from a Clinton resident, the Police Jury adopted a plan last year that also did not count the prisoners for the purpose of drawing district lines.
The 4:30 p.m. public hearing will precede the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, at which the board is scheduled to vote on the plan developed by demographer Nancy Jensen. A map of the proposed districts is available at the School Board office.
The latest plan continues the tradition of electing 12 board members from a combination of single-member and multimember districts. A move to decrease the number of board members failed after the 2000 federal census.
Jensen said taking the 1,562 DCI inmates, who cannot vote, out of the District 3 population base required her to take census blocks from District 5 to make the numbers approximately even.
“Everybody had to shift to the east,” she said.
District 1, the northernmost district, has one member and is now represented by Rufus Nesbitt.
District 2, north and east of Jackson, has two members, Melvin Hollins and Broderick Brooks Sr., who run in separate divisions of their choosing.
District 3 has three members who run in separate divisions, and without DCI’s 1,162 black inmates, is 63.63 percent white.
The district is represented by Rhonda Matthews, who is black, and Mitchell Harrell and Beth Dawson, who are white.
Only one member is elected from District 4, the Slaughter area. John Benjamin Cupit is the current representative.
District 5, the Ethel area, is represented by Olivia Harris, its only member.
District 6, which includes Clinton and spans an area from the East Baton Rouge Parish line to the Mississippi state line, has three members who run in separate divisions. The district is represented by Michael Bradford, Richard Terrell and Debra Spurlock Haynes.
District 7, the southeast corner of the parish, has one member and is represented by Paul Kent.
The School Board’s next election is in 2014, but state law requires the board to finish its redistricting plan and get U.S. Justice Department approval by the end of the year.
Six of the seven districts are within the plus or minus 5 percent deviation from the ideal district population of 1,558 residents, but District 7 has 203 residents above that, or a 13.03 percent deviation.
Jensen said she believes the Justice Department will accept the deviation because District 7, which is 70.7 percent white, is surrounded by District 6 and neighboring parishes.
Taking a portion of District 7’s population and putting it in District 6 would dilute the voting strength of black District 6 voters, she said.
Jensen said finding an equitable way of dividing the parish into districts is complicated by an apparent undercount during the 2010 census effort.
“Every parish I work with has hit this same problem,” she said, but added the official census figures are the only numbers from which the parish can work, short of paying to conduct its own census.
As an example of an apparent undercount, Jensen said, a Clinton voting precinct has 1,348 registered voters, but the census says only 1,233 people 18 or older live there.
“A lot of people don’t want to fill out census forms because they’re afraid the government can find them,” she said, but added that some parish residents, including a police juror, did not receive a form to return.
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