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Elections delay certification of St. George petitions

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BATON ROUGE - Nearly a month after St. George organizers turned in their petition with nearly 18,000 signatures, none of the names have been certified.

Initially, Registrar of Voters Elaine Lamb said the process to count signatures would begin after the November election. However, with the runoff election in December, none of the names have even been looked at yet.

"We really didn't have any expectation of how long this would take because nothing like this to this size or degree has ever happened in the State of Louisiana," St. George Spokesman Lionel Rainey said.

The St. George effort initially started as a push for better schools but expanded to form a new city. In the wake of the uncertainty, several high profile businesses like the Mall of Louisiana and L'Auberge Casino were annexed into the City of Baton Rouge.

Attorney Mary Olive Pierson is representing the city of Baton Rouge in this ongoing fight against the proposed city of St. George. She says the city will weigh out its legal options if the registrar says St. George has enough signatures to bring this issue to a vote.

The toughest task for the registrar will be going through the precincts that run along the border of the proposed city. That will have to be done to make sure the people who signed the petition don't live inside the city limits of Baton Rouge. Those names would be ruled ineligible. However, St. George organizers already have a backup plan.

"If we fall into the national average, there's a chance we could be short on the number of valid petitions we've turned in, so we've been actively going out and getting people to sign the petition in case we have to have anymore to turn in," Rainey said.

Critics like Metro Councilman John Delgado pledge to keep fighting.

"I think they turned in 18,000 invalid signatures," Delgado said.

The Registrar of Voters expects to start verifying names around Christmas. That could take about a month.

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