Police jury elections delayed

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish police jury elections are on hold at the moment pending approval of the new redistricting plan by the Department of Justice, a delay which could possibly cost the parish hundreds of dollars, Concordia Police Jury President Melvin Ferrington said.

Ferrington said the U.S. Department of Justice has to approve the plan in mid-November in order for the police jury to have the election in April along with the Vidalia, Ferriday and Clayton mayoral elections, which he said would help absorb some of the costs of the election.

Ferrington said the Department on Justice did not receive the plan in time to approve it for the Oct. 22 general election, in which parish voters will select a sheriff, clerk of courts and tax assessor.

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Ferrington said redistricting is done every 10 years and is a fairly lengthy process that can take several months after new Census data is released.

He said once the plan was approved by the jury, it was sent to Oliver Schulz of Oliver Schulz and Associates, who the jury hired to make the reapportionment plan, for final revisions including the redrawing of the district maps.

Schulz then sent the plan to the Department of Justice, which requires 60 days to review the plan. The Department of Justice is currently reviewing the plan. Once the department approves the plan, it will be sent to the Secretary of State’s office, which will inform voters of the redistricting changes.

The police jury approved the new redistricting plan 8-1 on June 27 after a month and a half of deliberations. The new plan adjusted districts for population loss, many of which happened in District 2. The plan’s two major changes moved people from District 4 to District 5-A and also added more into District 2 from District 3.

District 2 juror Willie Dunbar was the only juror who voted against the plan. Dunbar voiced concerns about the plan during the jury’s deliberation process. Dunbar said at a May 16 special meeting he was concerned with the lack of additional black voters old enough to vote that he would receive in an early draft of the plan.

Ferrington stressed at the May 16 meeting that a decision needed to be made soon. Even though a decision wasn’t reached until June 27, Ferrington said Monday the police jury did everything “humanly possible” to get the plan approved on time. He said once the jury approved the plan, it was out of their hands.

“It couldn’t have been avoided,” he said. “Maybe if Mr. Dunbar hadn’t held it up, maybe, just maybe, we could have gotten it in.”

Ferrington said if the Department of Justice does not approve the plan by the deadline in November, there will be a special election. He said the money for the special election will come out of the general fund.