A redistricting compromise is in the works to court Pat Lewis to support the council split

Pat Lewis, center, has become the swing vote in the push to create separate city and parish councils. Photo by Travis Gauthier
▸ The gist: Lewis reportedly flipped to a “no” on an amendment to create separate city and parish councils when he saw the way his district was redrawn in preliminary maps. As late as minutes before Tuesday’s council meeting, Lewis was shown a map that would give him a safely black voting district, potentially allaying concerns about gerrymandering and disenfranchisement.

▸ Some background: Lewis currently represents a consolidated district that’s 63 percent black and includes Downtown. A map published last Thursday removed Downtown from Lewis’ new district, placing it in Bruce Conque’s new district, and included a close to even racial split between white and black voters. Lewis indicated at Tuesday’s council meeting that he was left out of the process of redrawing the maps, a complaint shared by fellow councilmen William Theriot and Jared Bellard. Lewis asked that the council to wait for the 2020 census to consider substantial changes to the charter. 
Several revisions have been made to appease Lewis’ concerns, a process reportedly hemmed in by Lewis’ residence in the north reaches of city limits. The latest reported revision, shown to Lewis before the council meeting, would create two majority black districts instead of one. Districts currently represented by Lewis and Kenneth Boudreaux would represent populations that are more than 60 percent black, arguably “safer” districts for either councilman to run in. Lewis has yet to indicate if the change would satisfy his concerns. It may be that his bigger concern is losing Downtown. I was unable to reach him for comment before press time. 

▸ Yes, redistricting is ugly: 
And no, this doesn’t really look like gerrymandering. Something to keep in mind is that Lafayette is roughly 64 percent white and 31 percent black. By ratio, that would legally entitle black voters to 1.55 seats on the council. The last minute revision would provide, ostensibly, two black councilmen on the city council and one on the parish council. Downtown would also move to Kenneth Boudreaux’s district in that proposal. It would thus be hard for Lewis to oppose that revision on the grounds that it disenfranchises black voters. But there is another ugly truth at play here: Redistricting takes into account the interests of the politicians themselves. Lines are drawn to accommodate the ambitions and desired constituencies of the sitting council members. That’s as much true for Pat Lewis’ district as it is for anyone else’s. It’s not pretty. It’s politics.

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