Registrar of Voters about halfway through verifying city of St. George petition signatures

The East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters is about halfway through the process of verifying signatures on city of St. George incorporation petitions, and so far only an estimated 3% of signatures have been thrown out because they’re invalid.

Though the Registrar’s office declines to provide Daily Report exact numbers, Amy Pourciau, a spokeswoman in the office, says the overwhelming majority of signatures have been verified and that her office is on track to complete the process by the end of February. Theoretically, that would be in enough time to place the incorporation issue on a May ballot.

On Wednesday evening, however, the Metro Council voted 8-3 to approve hiring local attorney Mary Olive Pierson to fight the incorporation effort. St. George organizers and several council members objected to Pierson’s contract, which has a $40,000 limit. In a statement released after the meeting, St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey says: “Tonight’s Metro Council vote sets a very dangerous precedent. They said it’s OK to interfere with the democratic process if they don’t like it. That’s terrifying.”

Pierson, however, has suggested the incorporation organizers did not follow proper procedure by changing the boundaries of the proposed city since first initiating the petition process and failing to provide adequate details about how the city would be run.

Council members Buddy Amoroso, Joel Boé and Chandler Loupe voted against approving Pierson’s contract. Ryan Heck was absent for the vote. Council members Trae Welch, Chauna Banks-Daniel, Scott Wilson, Ronnie Edwards, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle, Tara Wicker and John Delgado voted in favor of the contract.

St. George supporters submitted their petition to the Registrar’s office with about 18,000 signatures last fall. Pourciau declines to say exactly how many signatures are on the petition.

—Stephanie Riegel

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