Redistricting work to begin soon for board

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 28, 2001


LUTCHER – Redistricting work will begin soon for the St. James Parish School Board, which hired the firm of Redistricting LLC for the federally mandated task. The company will use U.S. Census Bureau data to revise district lines in time for the next board elections in 2002, meeting U.S. Justice Department approval. “We have the demographic data to the block level,” said William Boone of Redistricting LLC. “We only need the precinct level.” Boone explained the first order of business will be to locate each board member’s residence to head off any chance of pitting two board members against each other in an election. The redistricting is necessary to ensure minority voting rights, he explained, and pointed out that St. James Parish is 50 percent white and 49.4 percent black. However, Boone said, assisting in helping ensure Louisiana is scandal-free in their elections is the fact the state has the best-kept voter registration data in the country – “way beyond Florida” – and updated on a weekly basis. The process will include gathering and updating data on population and voter registration, interview each board member, create up to three district plans with maps, hold public hearings on those proposals, make adjustments where necessary, and forward the approved plan to the Justice Department. In addition, Redistricting LLC will also assist in preparing for the legal defense of any challenge made, making them unique among such firms. Board president Kenneth Foret said, “This is the only organization in Louisiana I know of who can take it from start to finish.” Payment for the services will be approximately $17,500, according to the proposal. Glenn Knopp, chief executive officer of Redistricting LLC, is an attorney who has performed similar redistricting services for the cities of Ville Platte, Morgan City and Covington, and the school boards of Vernon, East Baton Rouge, Iberville and Ascension parishes. He has also been in charge of all staff redistricting functions for the Louisiana Senate for the past 20 years, and has been an active member of the Redistricting Task Force of the National Conference of State Legislatures for the same period. The contract was approved by motion from Willis Octave, who said, “With the credentials presented to us, we should be real safe.”