Rapides Parish is a parish located in the U.S. state of Louisiana. Alexandria is the parish seat. It encompasses the Alexandria, Louisiana, Metropolitan Statistical Area. Rapides is the French spelling of "rapids". As of the 2010 census, the population was 131,613.
In 1763, the land that is now Rapides Parish became the new home of the Apalachee tribe, who were settled there with the permission of Governor Kerlerec. The Native Americans had come after fleeing the British and their Creek Indian allies from what is now from Leon County, Florida. Many of their descendants remain in Natchitoches Parish.
The first French settler was Vincent Porei, who was granted a small tract of land in July 1764 by the Civil and Military Commander of Natchitoches. Nicolas Etienne Marafret Layssard arrived in December 1766, with the permission of Aubrey and Foucault, to establish a "tar works" in the pineries of Rapides, for naval stores. He was later appointed the first Civil Commander of Rapides Parish. During the 1760s, the area was still a dependency of Natchitoches Parish [AGI, PPC, Legajo 187a, 384-384v].
Alexander Fulton had a Spanish land grant within Rapides Parish in the 1790s, where he laid out the future city of Alexandria in 1805. Rapides Parish was formed in 1807 by the government of the Territory of Orleans.
When the Union occupied Alexandria, elections were held on April 1, 1863, in Rapides Parish to select delegates for a pending state constitutional convention. According to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, the election was held at Alexandria "by the request of citizens of the parish of Rapides. No officer or soldier interfered with or had any part whatever in this matter. It was left exclusively to the loyal citizens" in Rapides Parish. The election dates varied within the Federally occupied areas. New Orleans held its contests for delegates on March 28. Marksville and Grand Ecore soon followed. According to the historian John D. Winters, "none of these elections in any way impeded the progress nor materially affected the outcome of the [Union's] Red River campaign.
Though Alexandria is heavily Democratic Rapides Parish as a whole frequently votes Republican in competitive elections. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney carried the parish with 37,193 votes (64.1 percent), compared to Democrat U.S. President Barack Obama's 20,045 (34.6 percent) tabulation. The 2008 returns in Rapides Parish were similar to those of 2012. U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona won the parish with 36,611 votes (63.6 percent) to Obama's 20,127 (35 percent).
With 58.8 percent and 63.8 percent, respectively, George W. Bush carried Rapides Parish in both 2000 and 2004 over the Democrats, Vice President Al Gore and John F. Kerry. The last Democrat to win at the presidential level in Rapides Parish was Bill Clinton, who in 1996 received 23,004 votes (46.1 percent) to Robert J. Dole's 21,548 (43.2 percent). Ross Perot, founder of his Reform Party, received 4,70 ballots (9.4 percent).