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Questions raised over invalidated St. George signatures

1 year 3 months 3 weeks ago June 30, 2015 Jun 30, 2015 Tuesday, June 30 2015 June 30, 2015 5:51 PM in News
Source: WBRZ
By: Chris Nakamoto

BATON ROUGE - Tonight, St. George organizers are telling us they believe dozens of names were struck off the incorporation petition by the Registrar of Voters erroneously.

Those against the proposed City of St. George say it's yet another delay tactic.

This month, the Registrar of Voters determined those in favor of creating a new city were 71 signatures short of the nearly 18,000 needed. Organizers filed a lawsuit last week, challenging that determination. At issue now is whether names should be counted after October 20, when the petition was turned in. Those against the proposed city say that would work in their favor too.

St. George organizers claim if a judge allows additional signatures to be re-added to the petition they'll have enough signatures to move forward. But, those against the proposed city call it a two way street and believe the proposed city would fail by an even larger margin.

Johnny Bernhard wants change in Baton Rouge. When the opportunity came up to sign the St. George Petition he did just that. But, this past weekend, he learned his name was taken off the list, invalidated by the Registrar. 

Bernhard says he was told his name was removed because in 1999 when he signed up to vote he went by John. Today, he goes by Johnny.

"My signature was determined not to match the signature going back 15 years," Bernhard said.

St. George organizers say they have heard that same discrepancy dozens of times, as people reach out on social media wondering why their signatures got tossed.

"If it's a good signature, it should count and that's one of the reasons we've filed with the registrar of voters to put back on a significant amount of erroneous signatures that were rejected that we don't believe should have been," St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey III said.

Registrar of Voters Steve Rayborn told WBRZ no changes have been made to the petition since June 13. That means no names have been added or subtracted from that list.

"It's possible some of those are wrong, but if that's the case, I'm sure they are wrong on both ways," Attorney Mary Olive Pierson said. "He's probably validated some that shouldn't have been."

Pierson is representing the City-Parish against the proposed City of St. George. She says, an analysis conducted by Better Together shows the number of people who died but were still counted would increase those who are ineligible on the petition.

"If you do it that way they still lost by a bigger margin," Pierson said.

As all sides get ready to have this play out in court, Bernhard just wants voters to have the final say.

"I'm not even convinced I would vote for it, but if a person signs the petition for it to be brought to a vote, our voices should be heard," Bernhard said.

A hearing is scheduled Monday before Judge Wilson Fields. St. George leaders contend people who signed the petition but were not yet registered to vote should still be eligible. Lawyers against the proposed city say if a judge rules in their favor, the petition will still be invalid. Those against the proposed city of St. George claim the number of signatures would increase by nearly 100, according to their calculations.

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