Vidalia redistricting plan tabled for lack of required votes

Published 10:25 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

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VIDALIA, La. — Vidalia officials had the adoption of a redistricting plan on the agenda Tuesday evening but there was one problem. They didn’t have enough aldermen present to vote on it.

Louisiana law requires a two-thirds majority to vote for changing the district lines. Vidalia Aldermen Robert Gardner and Rosa Demby were both absent on Tuesday.

Gardner, who has openly opposed the district maps, said he could not attend the meeting due to a work conflict.

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Demby said she was busy working at the polls during Tuesday’s general election and couldn’t make it to the meeting.

“Originally, I was leaning toward Plan A but have not had a chance to analyze them,” Demby said of the district maps. “Although I’m not planning to run again, I need to know what is best for my constituents.”

Maps A and B adapt to population shifts in the town’s minority districts represented by Demby and Gardner. Map A was presented by Strategic Demographics, the redistricting firm hired by the town, without any changes recommended by the Aldermen, Mayor Buz Craft said. He added Map B takes in recommendations from Gardner, however, Gardner said he doesn’t approve of either map.

“I asked for it to be tabled at the last meeting,” Gardner said. “As of now, I do not support either map.”

While the maps shift districts one and two, the biggest change in both redistricting proposals is they take the town’s largest district, the third, and split it into three independent districts represented by one alderman with approximately 800 voters in each.

With the current districts, three aldermen—Tommy Probst, Jon Betts and Brent Smith—all represent District 3.

All the aldermen expressed their support of having five districts instead of three.

At last month’s meeting, Garnder said his biggest concerns with the proposals are diminishing the minority vote by moving people into his district from areas he has never represented.

“On the old map, I did not have Texas Street or Pecan and Map A gave me Texas Street and Pecan and Map B gave those to District 1,” Gardner said. “I feel like they should go back to one of the three members of the largest district.”

The board moved to table the redistricting proposals until the next meeting.

Vidalia has no elections until 2024, but the redistricting must be done by Dec. 31, 2022. Not doing so is punishable with malfeasance in office charges, William Blair, Ph.D., of Strategic Demographics said.