There are 14 precincts that split along the boundary of the city of Lafayette and the unincorporated parts of the parish. Seven precincts voted “yes” to create separate city and parish councils. Seven voted “no.” That’s all you need to know about the proposition’s victory. The vote split right along the city-parish line.
On that count, predicting the outcome was always going to be a dicey bet. Twenty percent of voters were reportedly undecided in the days walking into the election, according to Fix the Charter PAC organizer Kevin Blanchard. Sure, the proposition for separate city and parish councils may have polled better than expected among voters outside of Lafayette city limits, but it was failure to deliver the city that killed 2011’s deconsolidation effort.
A little help from parish precincts wouldn’t cut it, and even that wasn’t something proponents could count on, given the proposition’s more obvious benefit to the city. Look no further than the PAC’s “protect LUS” themed mailers that hit mailboxes in the final week.
“One of the biggest arguments we heard was, ‘What is this going to do for me?’” Blanchard says of parish reaction to the campaign. “It’s a difficult argument; it’s less of a direct argument than it is for the city.”
To put it bluntly, to win, Fix the Charter needed the city to show up, and it did. City precincts edged the parish on turnout by one percent and saw bigger margins of victory. It took no less than 37 percent in any precinct and cleared more than 75 percent even in some high turnout areas.
Given, the city is bigger by population than the rest of the parish, it’s got the upper hand. But it takes ground game to make good on the advantage.
The final spread, 53 - 47, isn’t a mandate, but it’s hardly a squeaker. Within city limits, the proposition won 62 percent of the vote. Outside, it gained only 44 percent. The margin of victory in the city (3,432) is almost three times the margin of loss in the parish (1,342).
Only eight of the city’s 72 precincts voted against the proposition. The geographic spread is telling, just like that of the failed library tax renewal that inspired it. Here’s the precinct-by-precinct breakdown from April’s library vote:
Lafayette’s urban core is the city’s most liberal area — mind you it’s still not very liberal — and it was that portion of the city that voted for the library renewal.
The charter amendments, by contrast, ballooned the electorate both outward and upward. Areas that voted against deconsolidation in 2011 and the library renewal voted for the split council proposition. Areas that supported the library tax turned in larger margins on the proposition. Take a look:
It’s tempting to extract a lesson here, a playbook for future political aspirants. But it’s just as well, and sad to boot, that this could be a one-time thing. Fix the Charter’s real achievement is its cobbled confederation of Reaganites, Bernie Bros and whatever is in between. That coalition is fragile and likely temporary, and it could very well begin to strain now that the battle is won.
The genius, so-to-speak, of the campaign to fix the charter is that it was fundamentally apolitical, even if its message was about democratic fundamentals. What it produced is a rare moment of unity.