Attorney General issues response to St. George petition questions
State law provides no specific deadline by which the city-parish Registrar of Voters must issue a determination on the St. George petition, but does require “diligence and expedition” in the verification of signatures, according to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.
The law also does not allow voters to contest signatures during the verification process, and the registrar does not have the authority to investigate claims of forgery or fraud, as such claims should be handled by the secretary of state or the district attorney.
That’s according to an 18-page opinion the AG’s Office issued Tuesday in response to more than two dozen questions Registrar of Voters Steve Raborn sent in May regarding the St. George petition certification process.
The AG’s opinion confirms that residents of the proposed city have no more than five business days to withdraw or add signatures after the petition is submitted, according to state law. That period ended Monday for the St. George petition, which was submitted Oct. 15.
Organizers, however, may have an additional 60 days to collect signatures if the registrar determines the initial petition does not meet the required standard, according to the AG opinion. If they fail to collect the required number after that 60-day period, the incorporation effort ends and cannot be proposed again for another two years.
Those who wish to withdraw or contest signatures after the five-day period will not be allowed to do so during the verification process. Rather, they may “petition a court for such relief as may be provided by law,” the AG opinion states.
Also, after the registrar issues a final determination on the St. George petition, state law does not allow the registrar to reconsider.
Among the AG’s other response opinions: The registrar should not rely on third-party information in the verification process, and submitted signatures that are incorrect or illegible shall not be counted.
St. George organizers say they had 14,500 signatures when they submitted their petition, which is more than the 13,000 required. In the five-day period that followed, 23 withdrawal requests were submitted to the registrar, while 97 residents added signatures, Raborn says.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Raborn said he had not yet reviewed the AG’s opinion because his office was busy handling the first day of early voting for November elections. Raborn did not immediately respond to calls this morning.
Read the full opinion here: Opinion 18-0065 (1)