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Number of voting locations in parish reduced, several closed

voting
Posted at 8:45 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-26 21:45:31-04

Around 20,000 voters in Iberia Parish will cast their ballot for the October election in different polling locations than in previous years.

It's because the parish is in the process of reapportionment, Iberia Parish Registrar of Voters Kristina Blanchard explained to the New Iberia City Council on Tuesday. This is the redistribution of representation in a legislative body. It applies to U.S. congressional seats, but also to local authorities like school boards, police juries, etc. Reapportionment occurs after each census.

The process happens all the time without citizens necessarily realizing it, but this year is different because two open seats in the parish prompted an October election. Therefore, the parish had to speed up the reapportionment process so voters could be informed of their new voting location.

Blanchard added that the Louisiana legislature was offering parishes, including Iberia, the opportunity to reduce the number of polling locations due to budget reasons. Where there were 64 voting precincts in the parish before, as of July 9 there are only 37. Some locations where closed or removed, while some simply underwent name changes.

Revised state statutes state there can't be more than 2,200 voters at a single location, while those with 300 or less are typically consolidated. A demographer drew the new voting lines based on those statutes.

Anywhere from 20,000 to 22,000 voters will be affected, with about 20,000 being moved to a new location completely. Some of the precincts are split, while there are others who didn't move precincts, but their polling place changed.

Voters will receive an ID card with their new polling location, said Blanchard, and on Election Day officials will be at the closed locations informing voters of the change.

Blanchard emphasized that the change is temporary. The demographer will begin working with the parish council and school board once the census numbers are back, and there is a change officials will discuss redistricting again in 3-4 months. This means voters that get a new location for the October election could change yet again for the next one.

Some council members raised concerns about voters with no transportation whose locations have moved further away from their homes. Blanchard said that's definitely a negative aspect to the process. She said she understands the concerns, but there are several other options available, like early voting, voting by mail, or using a ride-share service.

City Council member Deidre Ledbetter, District 4, said of the changes, "It shouldn't be harder to vote, it should be easier. But we're cutting polling places so it will be harder for some to vote," adding that voter suppression is a major concern.

In New Iberia, Blanchard told KATC there are only six locations closing, but even though it's not a high number it could definitely still effect those who walk or ride bikes to get to the polls.

She said she expects a small voter turnout for the October election, and emphasized again that the changes are only temporary.

A full updated list of the voting locations in Iberia Parish is available for voters at sos.la.gov.

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