Verifying the St. George petition is on government time; Mundane clarification given on counting signatures
BATON ROUGE – A lengthy state legal opinion does not suggest any noteworthy changes from 2015 about how the registrar of voters should handle signatures needed to move a petition to create the city of St. George forward but outlines “absurd” understandings of law and includes the definition of “reasonably” and an education in legal “common sense.”
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office released its opinion Tuesday following an earlier inquiry from East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Steve Raborn and a list of 25 question asking for specifics about laws related to petition drives. Raborn asked for clarification on items from if he is the official keeper of the list of names on the St. George petition to how to calculate the needed number of signatures.
Perhaps the most straightforward clarification was on the number of signatures needed – 25% of the number of electors in the area at the time the petition is filed with the registrar are need to have signed the petition to advance the petition. Inactive voters can sign the petition but cannot be counted in the lump sum used to determine the number of total signatures needed.
Additionally, proponents of St. George will have an additional sixty days to obtain more signatures if the petition fails to meet the required number, though opponents would get no second chance to have names struck from the final tabulation.
A “window to [remove a name from the petition] … cannot be applied to the additional sixty day period,” state legal experts wrote in the opinion released to WBRZ.
If the petition meets the required number of signatures, it is forwarded to the governor to make a “determination as to whether an election shall be called.”
While the attorney general’s opinion does not set a deadline on when the registrar must validate the petition, it suggests a determination must be made within a reasonable amount of government time.
Organizers of the proposed city of St. George submitted the petition with more than 14,000 signatures a week ago Monday. Opponents had until Monday evening to submit documents from voters who had decided to have their name removed.
St. George organizers believe they need about 13,000 signatures. In 2015, the first petition got thrown out of court after the group fell 71 valid signatures short.
In a previous WBRZ report on the petition verification process, Raborn said counting the signatures will “take a while”… [possibly] several months."
You can read the full document from the Attorney General's Office here.
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