A detailed breakdown of the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters Office’s review of the St. George incorporation petition shows that the No. 1 reason signatures were invalidated was because the signatories were not registered to vote.
But there were many other reasons that factored into the more than 5,000 signatures being tossed from the petition. Some people died, others were felons, and many people wrote illegibly.
And of course there were the withdrawals, an effort propelled by an anti-St. George group that asked people to consider removing their name from the petition after they signed it.
The Registrar’s Office released the detailed list this week. It shows every signature listed on the petition, the address of the person listed and whether their signature was accepted or rejected. If the name was rejected, it provides a reason why.
The list will be crucial for St. George advocates, who are looking for mistakes that could help them overturn the registrar’s conclusion that the group was short the requisite names on the petition to call an election for the city.
St. George leaders picked up a copy of the data Friday. They have said they intend to make the data public, so anyone whose name was erroneously removed can help them make their case.
Spokesman Lionel Rainey said Friday that it was too early to comment on the data because they are only beginning to sort through it.
St. George advocates came up 71 names short of their goal of 17,859 — a difference of less than half of 1 percent of the signatures needed. The group is hoping to get the courts involved to overturn the decision. But outside of court intervention, the shortfall means St. George’s 21-month petition effort will be entirely voided and no election will be held to determine if the proposed city of St. George could incorporate.
Better Together is also poring through the data, identifying where St. George was weakest in its petition process.
“We’ve always performed an independent check of the petition and are comparing our results with the registrar’s,” said M.E. Cormier, Better Together leader. “While we are refocusing our efforts to improve our public schools, St. George has made it clear that they plan to continue to fight for their divisive petition despite the registrar’s findings. It is important to us to follow through until the very end.”
Here’s a breakdown of all of the reasons signatures were removed from the petition, according to a data analysis done by Better Together:
38 people died between the time they signed the petition and when it was turned in Oct. 20. If they died after the petition was submitted to the Registrar of Voters Office, the signature counted.
777 names were removed because they were duplicates. If an eligible resident signed more than once, the registrar still counted one of the names.
36 names were illegible.
1,496 names were from people who did not live in the St. George boundaries.
1,723 names were from people who were not registered to vote by the time the petition was turned in.
98 signatures were not verified because they did not match the signatures on records for that person in other public documents. These signatures included some of the people identified in previous months who said their names were forged on the petition.
963 signatures were withdrawn. There were another 10 people who had unverified signatures on the petition who submitted withdrawals.
47 signatures were rejected because they are convicted felons.
Four names were not verified because there was no signature, no witness or because it was considered an invalid entry.
In total, St. George turned in 22,980 names. Of those, 18,353 were turned in on Oct. 20 and the other 4,627 were turned in May 28. There were 5,192 names either rejected or withdrawn from the petition in total. The St. George petition is the largest of its kind in state history. In order to call an election, city organizers needed to get signatures from 25 percent of the registered voters in the proposed boundaries of the city.
The population of the proposed city is more than 100,000 people. There are 71,436 registered voters in the area, according to the registrar of voters.