The East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar’s Office on Wednesday again pushed back the anticipated date to finish verifying signatures on a petition to create the city of St. George, saying it won’t complete the process until at least next week.
St. George backers submitted a petition to call an election to create their own city in the southern part of the parish in the fall, and the Registrar’s Office started verifying the 1,179-page document in December. Originally, the Registrar’s Office planned to finish verifying the petition’s estimated 18,000 names a month ago in late February.
Earlier this week, the Registrar’s Office estimated that it was on track to finish by Wednesday or Thursday.
Administrative Assistant Aimee Pourciau said the most recent delay is because of tight deadlines the Registrar’s Office is required to meet for elections. She said the office will be working on elections-related matters for the rest of this week and much of next week.
The Registrar’s Office has gone through the full petition and thrown out 17.5 percent of the names. Agency officials will not give an exact count of the amount of names on the petition or how many have been deemed not eligible.
Pourciau said they are still working on withdrawing the names of 139 people who originally singed the petition but have since submitted forms asking for their names to be removed. All of the forms must be confirmed as authentic.
In order to be eligible for an election, St. George backers need signatures from 25 percent of people within the proposed city’s boundaries. If the petition comes up short — as has been predicted by the anti-St. George group Better Together — St. George backers will have 60 days to collect more signatures and return to the Registrar’s Office.
The proponents of the new city say they are prepared to tackle that task.
Norman Browning, one of the main St. George organizers, said at a Chamber of Commerce of East Baton Rouge meeting Wednesday that they are on track to collect 2,000 additional signatures. He called the additions “a little cushion to carry the ball across the goal line.”
In the past, St. George organizer Lionel Rainey said they have at least 1,250 signatures ready to go in the event of a shortfall.
“Let’s send a loud message, a very clear message, that we as the people always want to protect our right to vote,” Browning told the small-business oriented Chamber.