Anti-St. George group Better Together is trying to break into the St. George lawsuit against the Registrar of Voters Office, so it can more directly try to help defeat the petition as the battle to create a new city moves into the courtroom.
The group filed a request in state court on Wednesday asking to be an intervenor, a legal term meaning it will join in on the lawsuit and argue against the St. George backers who continue to try to put the initiative on a ballot for voters.
Organizers behind the proposed city of St. George, who worked for almost two years to bring the city to a vote, were dealt a devastating blow last month when the Registrar’s Office concluded the incorporation petition was short 71 valid signatures. The shortage of less than half a percent of the needed signatures means the petition is voided and the group can’t restart efforts for two years.
The group filed a lawsuit last week that says the Registrar’s Office erred when it tossed out signatures from people who were not registered to vote by Oct. 20 — the day the petition was first filed. Attorneys with St. George said there’s nothing in the law that states the people who signed had to be registered by that day, as long as they eventually registered.
They filed their lawsuit against Registrar of Voters Steve Raborn, noting that he acknowledged the facts presented in their suit but refused to take corrective action because he declared his work complete.
M.E. Cormier, a Better Together leader, said the group is petitioning to join the lawsuit, “because we have a vested interest, just like every member of this parish does, to keep this parish whole.”
Lionel Rainey, St. George spokesman, said Better Together’s interest in joining the lawsuit further disparages the group’s credibility.
“The fact that they have filed suit in this matter should tell you everything you need to know about them,” he said. “Our suit simply asks that all errors be corrected and every legal petitioner be counted. They don’t want that to happen.”
A hearing for the lawsuit will be Monday morning at the 19th Judicial Courthouse, before state District Judge Wilson Fields.
In the court filings, Better Together’s attorney Chris Whittington said the registrar did his job in good faith and that his job is complete. “He did his job of evaluating and determining the validity of the signatures,” the petition states. “He should not be reordered to re-visit discretionary acts performed or decisions made reasonably, in good faith and within his discretion.”
The suit also says that if the courts were to agree that the eligibility date for registered voters should be moved past Oct. 20, then the registrar also should be ordered to disqualify additional voters for the same period who moved or died.
For example, if someone signed the petition and died before Oct. 20, their name was rejected. But if they died after Oct. 20, their name stayed valid. Opening the eligibility period means more people in that category should similarly be removed.
Better Together said by its own calculations, the proposed additions and withdrawals from both sides would increase the signature deficit to 174 instead of 71.