The St. George petition verification should be complete by the end of February, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voters’ Office, which puts backers of the proposed new city on track for a possible May election.

The Registrar’s Office reported that workers are about halfway through verifying the estimated 18,000 names in the 1,179-page document as of Thursday.

“There’s a lot of things that you have to check; each name you at least spend a good five to 10 minutes on,” Administrative Assistant Aimee Pourciau said.

If the registrar of voters does not verify the signatures by March 17, St. George backers would miss the deadline to appear on the May 2 ballot. They already have missed the deadline to appear on the March 28 ballot.

The news comes amid the Metro Council’s vote on Wednesday to give attorney Mary Olive Pierson $40,000 to represent the city of Baton Rouge in legal conflicts with the proposed city of St. George. Many St. George backers have argued that the hiring of Pierson is another attempt to delay or ruin their chances of creating the city.

The petition must include at least 25 percent of registered voters within the proposed boundaries of St. George for an election to be held. Pourciau said they have thrown out only about 3 percent of the names so far.

Pierson has said previously she intends to challenge whether St. George organizers followed the correct legal procedures in gathering signatures and submitting the petitions.

The Registrar’s Office began checking the petition for the incorporation of St. George mid-December. Each name must be compared to registration records and confirmed to be within the correct boundaries.

“It’s going great; it’s going along,” Pourciau said. “We’re happy with where we’re at.”