Long waits for Walker voters lead to calls for divided precinct

While voters waited in line until 10:45 p.m. at one precinct Tuesday, more than a dozen candidates for city offices awaited their political fates.

During the wait, only four votes separated the two men running for mayor.

With votes from all other precincts counted, a dozen candidates for five alderman seats watched and waited for the votes from the final box to be tallied to see if they would win, lose or find themselves in a runoff.

About 200 people were still in line to vote at the precinct when polls closed at 8 p.m., said Bobby Font, the incumbent mayor.

Font, one of several officials who said Wednesday the precinct needs to be divided into two, called the wait nerve-wracking for candidates as well as the voters.

When the results finally reached the Livingston Parish Clerk of Court’s Office and became public, Font found he had been unseated by challenger Rick Ramsey.

One thing on which Ramsey and Font both agree is that it would be a good idea to split the precinct.

Other areas in town finished well before the balloting was completed at the Levi Milton Elementary School precinct, Ramsey said.

That precinct kept election employees waiting at the parish courthouse until about 11:30 p.m., Clerk of Court Tom Sullivan said.

Sullivan agreed, too, that the precinct has grown too large and needs to be divided.

Among the problems, only about 250 of the people in the precinct live in Walker, meaning that the majority of voters using the precinct have to be “blocked out” on the machines to prevent them from voting for candidates in city races, he said.

Livingston Parish Registrar of Voters Delmas Taylor agreed Wednesday that the precinct and a couple of others appear to have ballooned as a result of the parish’s rapid population growth, and need to be split.

A precinct at Juban Parc Junior High School, which is located between Walker and Denham Springs, has grown even larger than the one at Levi Milton and now handles about 2,400 voters, Taylor said.

Officials said the last people in line at Juban Parc Tuesday didn’t vote until after 9:45 p.m.

Taylor said he will look at all of the precincts in the parish and consider dividing those nearing 2,000 voters.

Getting those changes made would involve the Parish Council, the Louisiana Secretary of State and the U.S. Justice Department, he said.

That can’t be done before the December runoffs, Taylor said.

He said he doesn’t expect the crowds to be as large on Dec. 8 because many of the high-profile races are now settled.

Nevertheless, one of the Walker races promises to be unusual.

Of the 12 Board of Aldermen candidates who waited until almost midnight Tuesday to find out how many votes they had gotten, only one — Republican Tracy Girlinghouse — received sufficient support to gain a seat in the primary.

Eight of the other 11 candidates will have to meet again next month to battle for the four remaining seats, said Venessa Barnett, the parish’s election supervisor.

Campaign season continues until then for Republicans Jonathan Davis, Jim Goins, Gary Griffin, Scarlett Milton Major, Paul Roberts Jr., Jack Summerell, John Wilder and Democrat Debra Keller.