Gov. John Bel Edwards has effectively ended the faint hopes of supporters of the St. George incorporation effort that he will put the measure on a May ballot, saying he cannot call the election until he has physically reviewed the entire 5,000-page petition.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Edwards’ office says the governor has received only a one-page certification from the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters validating the signatures but has not yet seen the actual petition and must do so before legally calling the election.
“By law, the Governor must review the petition, not the letter of certification,” the statement says.
The statement goes on to suggest it could be a while before the governor receives the actual petition, as the registrar’s office has informed him it needs to redact information from the document first.
For the election to have been held in May, as St. George supporters were hoping, Edwards would have to call for it by March 11, which is Monday. Conventional wisdom holds the measure would have a better chance of passage in a special spring election than during a general election this fall, when Edwards, a Democrat, is on the ballot.
Earlier this week, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome asked Edwards to call the election in November, saying voters need adequate time to attend community meetings and learn about what St. George incorporation would mean to the parish.
St. George organizers, who predicted earlier this week Edwards would put off the vote until the fall, say they are disappointed but want to get the information the governor needs to him as soon as possible so they can get on the earliest ballot.
“His job is merely perfunctory in this process,” says St. George spokesman Drew Murrell. “He has everything he needs to certify what was given to him by the Registrar of Voters. He is caving to political pressure, and that is sad.”