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Civil rights group awaits word on Caddo Commission challenge

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Written by
Adam Kealoha Causey 


Local civil rights activists are awaiting word from the federal government on their challenge to the way the Caddo Commission redrew its election districts.

The Shreveport chapter of the National Action Network submitted a petition with some 700 signatures to the Department of Justice. The agency includes a division that investigates civil rights complaints.

Caddo residents such as Joe Wills, who helped collect signatures, say commissioners should have drawn a map that would make it likely six black members would be elected to the board.

Racially speaking, the commission is split evenly with six whites and six blacks. But Wills and others say District 10, whose population base is Shreveport’s Southern Hills neighborhood, should be construed as majority minority. David Cox, a white independent, represents the area now.

District 12 — which includes west Shreveport and Greenwood — is mostly white but is represented by black democrat Ken Epperson.

“I feel like they’re going to reject the plan that they sent up there,” said Wills, a longtime advocate for black representation in Shreveport.

Commissioner Stephanie Lynch pushed for the same idea as Wills, although she was unsuccessful in convincing her colleagues. The commission voted 9-3 on June 6 in favor of another plan, which has been sent to the Department of Justice for approval.

Louisiana governmental entities receive more scrutiny on election districts because of the state’s history of racial discrimination.

“This is the same area that gave the state redistricting process problems,” Lynch said.

A push in the House of Representatives to create a mostly black district based in Southern Hills failed. The Department of Justice notified the House of its approval on the map that excluded that district June 20.

Commissioner John Escude commended the work of demographer Gary Joiner, who has worked with local and regional governments on redistricting for decades. His company, Precision Cartographics, received a $40,600 contract with the commission for this year.

“The reason we do it externally is to take the politics out of it,” Escude said. “Now what I think we have is a process that’s become politicized, for what motives I don’t know.”

A timeline on when the Department of Justice may respond to the National Action Network’s request is unclear. A phone call from The Times to the civil rights division went unreturned.



Written by demon53

July 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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