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|Council elections delayed|
The City of Monroe must hold off elections for City Council since the U.S. Department of Justice did not approve critical redistricting plans in time to get those elections on the March 2012 ballot.
City officials had hoped the Justice Department would sign off on the new City Council districts in time for the city to turn over the plans to the Louisiana Secretary of State.
In order for the municipal elections to appear on the March ballot, the redistricting plan needed to be in Baton Rouge by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29.
That didn't happen, according to Secretary of State spokesperson Sailor Jackson.
"Once you fail to deliver the plan by the designated time, you won't be able to hold those elections for City Council," Jackson said.
Jackson said there is no room in state law for variation.
"That's the bottom line," Jackson said. "You have to go through the Department of Justice and they have to approve it."
"You can't move forward before that is done," he said.
Every 10 years, the City of Monroe must redraw its five City Council districts to account for population shifts as shown in the U.S. Census.
The 2010 Census was delivered in July. That left the city enough time to draw new districts and submit them to the Justice Department for its consideration.
The city challenged the Census results, however, which showed Monroe had dipped below 50,000 in population — a critical number for the city to continue receiving certain federal funding.
That challenge consumed valuable time before the City Council districts could be redrawn. Also, more time was lost when city officials submitted the plans to the Department of Justice, to make sure the new districts did not disenfranchise voters.
The state Constitution and the Monroe City Charter spell out specific timetables on when districts must be redrawn.
In the case of state law, that deadline was Tuesday afternoon. The city charter requires districts to be completed and approved a minimum of six months prior to any election.
That deadline passed more than two months ago.
Before anything can happen, though, the Department of Justice must approve the new city council districts.
"As far as I know, we haven't heard anything yet," Mayo said.
Mayo declined to comment further on when municipal elections will be held, adding that he would wait until there was official word from the Secretary of State that the March elections won't take place.