Better Together has turned in 179 more withdrawal forms in the past two days, continuing its aggressive campaign to subtract names from a petition seeking to allow voters to decide whether to incorporate the proposed city of St. George.
The group has now submitted more than 1,100 withdrawal forms, with the hopes of keeping St. George advocates from having the 17,859 signatures they need to secure an election.
M.E. Cormier, a leader with the anti-St. George group, said she will continue to deliver signatures to the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Office every day because she believes they are nearing their work verifying the petition and want to make sure the forms get included before their window is closed. Once the Registrar’s Office declares that the pro-St. George group has secured 25 percent of the signatures from registered voters in the proposed city, no more withdrawal forms will be accepted.
“The reaction we’re getting from the registrar is that we think they’re really close to being done,” Cormier said.
The group sent an email to its supporters Thursday saying it believes the Registrar’s Office could be finished “over the next three days.”
The Registrar’s Office has been reviewing the final few thousands names submitted two weeks ago on the St. George petition. However, on Thursday, the office was still guarded about where the verification process stands.
“We’re pretty far along,” Aimee Pourciau, a Registrar’s Office spokeswoman, said Thursday.
But she declined to provide any details about how many signatures had been verified or when the verification will be finished.
But Pourciau did say her office is planning to double-check their work and seemed open to criticism they received last week when Better Together announced it believed the registrar had erroneously validated 239 signatures on the petition.
Better Together urged the Registrar’s Office to remove those signatures from its count of validated signatures, creating an even wider gap for St. George proponents to fill.
The office is adhering to a “tried-and-true process for verifying the signatures on the petition,” Pourciau said.
“We are human, though, and intend to double-check our work,” she said. “Nothing is finalized, and there will be opportunities to review.”
Initially, St. George organizers submitted more than 18,000 signatures last fall. But the Registrar’s Office invalidated about 17 percent of the signatures, creating a shortfall of 2,700 needed to clinch the election.
St. George organizers had two months to fill the gap, and they came back with another 4,630 signatures.
They can no longer turn in signatures. But St. George opponents are still turning in withdrawal forms.
If St. George is short this time, the petition process will be voided, and organizers will be banned for two years from restarting the effort.
If successful, an election will be called where only the people in the proposed boundaries can vote to create a new city.