No longer a population powerhouse for representation
The finishing touches and fine-tuning of the Louisiana Legislature reapportionment process is in the final phases and from all indications, you can count Natchitoches Parish as one of the losers in the House of Representatives.
That’s because the seat of Kenny Cox, who is term limited, is being dissolved and moved to the New Orleans area. Other districts in the area will absorb Cox’s voters. A second reason is because Natchitoches Parish is no longer holding the majority of population in any district.
The reapportionment session is scheduled to run until Sunday, Feb. 20.
On the Senate side, however, the 31st Senatorial District of Louie Bernard seems to be growing north, while giving up the southern part of the district.
Bernard looks to be keeping Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine and what he currently has in Winn Parish. He will be losing the small area he currently represents in Grant Parish and will give up that portion of Rapides Parish that goes to Cheneyville.
In return for those losses, Bernard looks to gain Desoto Parish voters (primarily the Mansfield, South Mansfield, Pleasant Hill areas) some of Bienville Parish and perhaps south Webster Parish.
Longtime political leader and former State Senator Don Kelly said this new reapportionment plan puts Natchitoches Parish in an unlikely position of electing a local person to the Louisiana House.
He can’t remember a time when Natchitoches Parish hasn’t been the population center of a district. Likewise, Natchitoches Parish has had a local person in a House seat for as long as he can remember. The 2010 reapportionment map had the legislative district adding more of Desoto Parish, but Natchitoches still made up the bulk of the population. The district became a minority district because of the black/white population ratios and was won by Kenny Cox of Mansfield.
This new plan, House Bill 14 by Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder, has Natchitoches split between three House Districts and does not have the majority of voters in any. We were split into three districts previously, but still maintained a majority of the population in at least one.
The District 13 seat, held by Winnfield Representative Jack McFarland, has Bienville, Jackson, Natchitoches and Winn Parishes. Jackson Parish has 15,000 residents in this district, while Winnfield has 13,000, Bienville at 8,300 and Natchitoches Parish at 7,000 in 11 precincts. (The Natchitoches voters are in the northeast portion of the parish to the Bienville and Winn Parish lines.)
District 22, which is held by Gabe Firment of Pollock, includes Grant, LaSalle and Natchitoches. The district had just a small portion of Natchitoches before, but now has 14,916 Natchitoches residents in 10 precincts along our western parish line and into Clarence. The rest of the district includes one LaSalle parish precinct and all of Grant Parish.
The rest of the Natchitoches Parish House of Representative voters will go into a District currently held by Lance Harris of Alexandria. The district will include 27,631 Rapides and 15,505 Natchitoches Parish residents in 29 local precincts. It also takes in Marthaville and Robeline areas that had been represented by Rodney Schamerhorn of Hornbeck.
The reapportionment maps are subject to a gubernatorial veto as well as approval by the US Department of Justice-Voting Rights Division and any legal actions once finalized by the legislature.