The East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters started work Thursday validating the thousands and thousands of signatures submitted by the hopeful organizers of the proposed city of St. George.

The petition is more than 11,000 pages, and organizers estimate they contain about 18,000 signatures. They need the signatures of 25 percent of registered voters in the proposed boundaries in order to qualify for an election.

The exact number needed is still unclear because the boundaries of the proposed city have several split precincts that need to be evaluated in order to find the true city population.

Estimates for the required number have ranged from 16,500 to 18,500.

Organizers gathered the signatures over the course of more than a year. They were submitted to the Registrar’s Office on Oct. 20, with the hope the petition would be validated in time for the December or March election.

However, registrar officials had not been able to start the process until this week because they say they’ve been inundated with fall election work.

The process to validate the petition will take at least a month, Registrar Elaine Lamb has said.

That means the petition is unlikely to be verified in time for the March election — and that St. George supporters probably will have to wait for the May 2 ballot.

If after verifying the petition St. George organizers come up short on signatures, they will have 60 days to make the difference. They have continued gathering additional signatures since submitting the petition to the Registrar’s Office on Oct. 20.

Only registered voters within the proposed boundaries of the new city will have an opportunity to vote on its incorporation.

If successful, St. George will be about 80 square miles with a population of about 107,000 people.

St. George’s budget would be carved out of funds that currently make up the East Baton Rouge city-parish budget.

Mary Olive Pierson, an attorney representing the city-parish on St. George issues, has said she will file a suit challenging the validity of the petition if it’s successfully verified.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs. theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz.