State Rep. Patricia Smith sidelined legislation Tuesday seeking to end the “life-time” appointment of Louisiana’s registrars of voters.

Smith shelved a registrars’ office revamp in favor of a study resolution after running into trouble in the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

More than a dozen registrars of voters attended the committee meeting to oppose the change.

“There needs to be some way of getting a handle on the way these people run their offices and how they are selected,” said Smith, D-Baton Rouge. “There is definitely politics in the Registrars of Voters offices.”

She also said attention needed to be paid to the largely white racial makeup of the offices’ key employees.

Smith voluntarily deferred action on a proposed constitutional amendment and a companion law change under which registrars would serve terms concurrent with the parish governing bodies that appoint them.

The Louisiana Constitution provides that the governing authority of each parish appoints the registrar of voters but they cannot remove the person from office.

“This is a black hole in our constitution,” said Arthur Morrell, Orleans Parish Criminal Court Clerk. “The registrars of voters should answer to someone.”

Calcasieu Parish Registrar of Voters Angie Quienalty said Smith’s proposed constitutional amendment would reinsert politics into what is now “an impartial, fair, unbiased election process.”

“Keep registrars from having to bend to any political influence and not be beholding to anyone,” Quienalty said.

Quienalty said there are provisions for removal of a registrar. The State Board of Election Supervisors can remove a registrar of voters for cause, she said.

Committee chairman Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, said the registrar of voters office “needs some reform. It’s been overlooked” and a study is warranted.

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