Registrar awaits signatures from St. George backers, opponents as afternoon deadline nears

As of this afternoon, the East Baton Rouge Registrar of Voters office still is awaiting a fresh batch of signatures from organizers of the St. George petition drive, as well as a stack of withdrawal signature forms from opponents of the effort to incorporate the new city.

The deadline for organizers of the St. George effort to submit their additional signatures is 4:30 p.m. Additional signatures have been collected over the past six weeks since more than 2,000 signatures on the original petition the group submitted in early April were found to be invalid. St. George spokesman Lionel Rainey told Daily Report Wednesday that the group had collected at least 2,700 signatures, but was going to continue collecting more through the night to be sure they had enough to get the issue on the ballot.

Meanwhile, the group that is fighting the incorporation effort—Better Together—plans to submit signature withdrawal forms at 4 p.m. The group has been working for several weeks to identify and collect signatures from those who no longer want to be included on the incorporation petition. Better Together organizer Dianne Hanley will not divulge how many withdrawal forms the group has amassed, but says it will disclose the number when it submits the forms later today.

Once both the petition and withdrawal forms are submitted, the Registrar of Voters office will get down to work on what is expected to be a weeks-long process of verifying signatures. Office administrative assistant Amy Pourciau says the petition drive signatures will be validated first, then the signatures on the withdrawal form will be verified  and names will be removed from the petition. Pourciau says the office will update its progress in two weeks.

Attorney Mary Olive Pierson, who represents the city-parish in the matter and has vowed to file suit to stop the incorporation effort once the petition is filed, says at this point there is no legal recourse to be had. However, if the signatures on the petition drive are valid and the governor calls an election, she says she will file suit at that point, challenging the legality of the petition.

“The petition is, today, as it was when it got started—invalid,” Pierson says. “It does not meet the legal requirement of the law because it does not include a plan of government. All they included is a flawed budget. There is no plan.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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