Six residents who were inadvertently left out of city council voting district descriptions created by the Dec. 8 charter amendment want a judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging the charter amendment election.
The residents of Elmhurst Park neighborhood in Lafayette filed a legal petition Thursday in an attempt to protect their ability to vote in upcoming council elections. The documents were filed by fax with the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Office Thursday because the courthouse was closed Thursday and Friday. Original documents are expected to be hand delivered Monday.
Voters in the city and parish approved a home rule charter amendment Dec. 8 creating separate city and parish councils instead of the nine-person council in existence since consolidation in 1996.
After the Dec. 8 election results were certified, errors were discovered in descriptions of city council districts. Several voters in the city in Elmhurst Park were inadvertently excluded while others in the city were included in more than one council district.
The City-Parish Council adopted an ordinance in March to correct the problem, which would allow those voters to participate in upcoming elections. Until the council ordinance was adopted, they did not have a precinct assignment.
Elections for the new city and parish councils are set for Oct. 12 with qualifying beginning Aug. 6.
Lafayette businessman Keith Kishbaugh filed a lawsuit April 5 asking a judge to throw out the council ordinance. Ultimately, Kishbaugh said he wants the Dec. 8 election results overturned.
On April 10, the Louisiana Attorney General's Office on behalf of Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin filed a motion to intervene in Kishbaugh's lawsuit, asking a judge to throw out all or part of the Dec. 8 charter amendment and postpone fall elections for the new city and parish councils until 2020. Current City-Parish Council terms expire in January 2020.
Filing the petition Thursday were residents Deborah Amy, Dennis Sullivan, Daniel Gillane, Bruce Sawvel, Jane Sawvel and Harold Bernard Jr. According to a news release, the six are registered to vote in precinct 74, where voters favored the Dec. 8 charter amendment by a vote of 76-24.
They argue that Kishbaugh filed his lawsuit too late. State law, they state, provides 30 days from Dec. 18, the day the council promulgated the election results, to challenge the election.
Attorneys for the residents refer to the precedent set during a lawsuit filed by Andy Hebert shortly after the 1992 vote to consolidate city and parish governments.
Fifteenth Judicial District Court Judge John Trahan previously set the trial date on the Kishbaugh lawsuit for May 8, with motions to be heard April 29.