Lafayette City Hall is pictured Tuesday, August 28, 2018, in Lafayette, La.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin is intervening Wednesday in a lawsuit against Lafayette Consolidated Government over the proper way to correct precinct errors associated with a December home rule charter amendment.

"The Secretary of State has decided to intervene in the case and has requested the Attorney General's office represent him in the matter," Jacques Ambers, special assistant to Attorney General Jeff Landry, wrote in an email to The Acadiana Advocate on Tuesday. "AG Landry has agreed to do so."

Tyler Brey, spokesman for Ardoin's office, said the Secretary's Office "is not trying to subvert the will of the people and undo the results of the election in December."

The secretary, he said, is trying to make sure everyone has a precinct in which to vote.

The April 5 lawsuit by Lafayette businessman Keith Kishbaugh asks that the March 26 ordinance allowing the city-parish Council to correct errors in precincts created in a Dec. 8 vote be thrown out, but it does not provide the clarity needed by the Secretary's Office to hold elections, Brey said.

"We would still be left without council districts for about 330 people," he said. "We need an answer to that. That's why the Secretary of State is intervening."

A hearing is set for 10 a.m. Thursday on the lawsuit by Kishbaugh before 15th Judicial District Court Judge John Trahan in Lafayette, according to the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's Office.

Lafayette Parish voters, in a low-turnout election Dec. 8, approved a home rule charter amendment that splits the current nine-person council into two councils — a five-person city council and five-person parish council — for the first time since the two were consolidated in 1996. Elections are scheduled Oct. 12 to fill those seats.

Problems were discovered after the election with precinct descriptions, including one city precinct that was omitted when the council approved an ordinance calling for the election. Until the errors are corrected, there can be no election to fill the new council seats.

In February, Ardoin said he believed a new election is needed but the decision is a local one and he has no authority to force a new election. He said he would take legal action or involve the Attorney General's Office if the problem is not corrected in time for potential candidates to qualify for the fall elections. Qualifying is Aug. 6-8.

Last week, Brey said Ardoin believed from the beginning that a new election amending Lafayette's home rule charter "is the best way and potentially the only way to fix the errors. He still stands by that. That was his opinion then and he still believes that."

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In March, the council voted 5-4 to make the precinct corrections by council ordinance, which is what a legal team of four city-parish attorneys recommended in an 11-page memo. The Louisiana Attorney General's Office disagreed, saying in a two-page opinion that a new vote of residents is needed. City-Parish attorney Paul Escott said the attorney general's opinion is just another legal opinion with no more weight than the city-parish legal team's opinion.

Kishbaugh's lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop officials from correcting the precinct errors with a council ordinance. He argues through Lafayette attorney Lane Roy that a charter amendment is required to correct the precincts and the only way to amend the charter is with a vote of the public.

Kishbaugh, who plans to run for the new parish council, said he ultimately wants a re-vote on the Dec. 8 charter amendment splitting the councils. He said he wants the single council to remain in place.

"I think a lot of the folks fighting this thing are people who didn't want this to pass and are looking for a way to undermine the will of voters," said Kevin Blanchard, of Fix the Charter. "There's no other logical conclusion."

Qualifying for the new city and parish council seats begins Aug. 6. The precincts and council districts must be defined properly by that time so candidates can qualify in the proper districts. If that deadline is missed or if a judge rules that the charter amendment must return to the ballot, the new city and parish council elections most likely would be postponed until 2020.

If the judge orders the charter amendment returned to the ballot, it doesn't appear that can happen until after Dec. 8, 2019, because the home rule charter prohibits the same measure from returning to voters for a full year. In that case, council elections would be pushed back to 2020 and the current council terms likely would be extended until a new council or councils are elected and seated.

Blanchard, an attorney, said he doesn't think the judge will throw out results of the Dec. 8 election.

"At the end of the day," he said, "voters have already spoken, and we don't live in a country that throws out election results based on frivolous" claims.

Voter turnout for the Dec. 8 election was about 22 percent. The vote was 53 percent in favor of the amendment and 47 percent against.

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Follow Claire Taylor on Twitter, @ClaireTaylorACA