(Stacey Tinsley, Bossier Press-Tribune)
On Tuesday, April 19, activists and community members gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bossier City to kick off a ballot initiative that would eliminate the two at- large seats on the Bossier City Council. The group’s goal is to create a city council elected from seven single-member districts.
“We must use every means at our disposal to motivate minorities to get out to vote and to create opportunities for equal representation at every level of government,” said Lee A. Jeter, Sr. Bossier City/Parish NAACP President.
Currently, five members of the Council are elected from single-member districts and two members are elected on an at-large basis.
“The at-large elections guarantee that the votes of Black residents will be drowned out by the votes of the city’s white majority,” said a press release sent to local media earlier this week.
Community members, led by the Bossier City/Parish chapter of the NAACP, plan to pursue a ballot initiative that will allow the public to vote on a change to the Bossier City Charter. That change would eliminate the Bossier City Council’s two at-large seats, leading to a body elected from seven single-member districts (instead of the current five districts plus two at-large seats which currently comprise the Bossier City Council).
The event included information and conversation about the Voting Rights Act and how it applies to elections in Bossier City.
Below is a portion of a letter sent via both email and regular mail to the Bossier City Council on February 17, 2022.
“Dear Councilmembers Montgomery, Smith, Hammons, Darby, Williams, Free ad Maggio:
The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP (“Louisiana NAACP”), Bossier Parish Branch of the NAACP, New York university School of Law Civil Rights Clinic (“NYU Civil Rights Clinic”), John Adcock Law LLC, Black Voters Matter Fund and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc (“LDF”) write to urge the Bossier City Council to end the practice of electing two of its seven councilmembers on an at-large basis and to instead adopt a seven single-member district map with two districts composed of a majority of Black voters (“majority-Black districts”). This proposed electoral structure is necessary to ensure the Black voters in the city of Bossier have an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice. Fair representation will ensure that the Council is actually responsive to the needs of the Black community in Bossier by addressing disparities in, for example, infrastructure, health, safety, and municipal hiring.
Under the existing structure, a Black council member has only been elected from the city’s sole majority-Black district. And since the City Council’s creation in 1977, no Black candidate has ever been elected to either of the at-large City Council seats despite competing for those seats and receiving Black voter support. In each instance, Black voters’ preferred candidates have been defeated by a majority of white voters.”