Recall organizers file suit, claim 30,000 people shouldn’t be on the “active” voter list

The number of signatures required is based on the number of registered voters
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 11:38 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The two leaders of the recall drive against New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell have filed suit against Orleans Parish Registrar Sandra Wilson and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin alleging that the names of 30,000 people should not be on the voter rolls.

The suit which asks a judge to issue a writ of mandamus claims that hundreds of dead people remain on the voter rolls in New Orleans. Attorney General Jeff Landry is the legal counsel for the registrar’s office and in a statement to FOX 8, his office said the registrar has been given permission to hire private attorneys for the case.

The recall campaign says it hired a private company to canvass the voter rolls after not receiving the accurate number of “qualified electors” from the secretary of state who is the top elections official in Louisiana.

The lower the number of names listed as active voters, the fewer names are required to force a recall election.

Laura Rodrigue is one of the lawyers representing Eileen Carter and Belden Batiste. She said some of the people listed as active voters are dead and others no longer live in New Orleans or other parts of the state.

“Through an investigation done in the recall we were able to determine that thousands of people are still listed as current, active voters in Orleans Parish. The majority of those have either died, moved out of the parish but within Louisiana, no longer in Orleans Parish or out of the state of Louisiana, so we are at somewhere around 20,000-25,000 people through just a general search in the database of people who no longer should be considered active registered voters,” she said.

FOX 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti discussed what a writ of mandamus is.

“A writ of mandamus is basically someone saying, judge please make this public official do their job and what they’re alleging is that the secretary of state and the registrar of voters in Orleans didn’t do their job in giving them active voter information,” said Raspanti.

Based on the current list of registered active voters the recall effort needs just shy of 50,000 certified signatures to force a recall election against Cantrell. But if the number of active voters is reduced fewer names would be required to call such an election.

“Essentially, that’s what we’re asking the court to get the secretary of state who supervises the registrar of voters to give us an accurate number because obviously, the recall is dependent upon that number, in order to determine what is the 20% that is needed, what 20% of the signatures are needed, in order to be successful,” said Rodrigue.

In the suit, the lawyers wrote, “The Secretary of State was required to provide the organizers of the recall with the accurate number of qualified electors in Orleans Parish. Despite the clear obligation of the Secretary of State to produce an accurate report, it never occurred. The organizers of the recall were forced to rely on the data produced by the Secretary of State’s website.”

Rodrigue commented on that claim at a Thursday afternoon press conference.

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“The Secretary of State is required by law to give the recall petition basically a certified document giving that number, they would be required to have given them at the time that the recall petition is filed. That never happened,” said Rodrigue. “As a result the recall effort essentially uses the information from the Secretary of State’s website to attempt to get an accurate number. That number changed between August 1st and September 1st.”

The deadline for the signed petitions to be turned into the registrar is February 22.

“I don’t anticipate that this will be fixed by Wednesday,” said Rodrigue.

She said they could ask that the signatures not be counted until they get an accurate list of active voters.

“So, I think that we can anticipate that there could be a request to sort of stop or stall the counting of votes until we have an accurate number to base that on. That would be the logical conclusion here, nothing has been filed yet but essentially we certainly don’t want the Secretary of State using an inaccurate number when determining whether the recall effort has obtained the required number of signatures.”

Blake Arcuri is another attorney for the recall campaign.

“I think that would require some input from some of the parties involved, the registrar, the Secretary of State if the judge would consider to say, how long would it feasibly take to do this, is it feasible for us to do this?” he said.

Also, in the lawsuit the lawyers wrote, “The recall effort has been handicapped by the incompetence of the Orleans Parish registrar of voters and the Secretary of State alike. Petitioners are entitled by law to an accurate count of Orleans Parish active registered voters.”

Ardoin responded to the suit with a statement.

Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin issued a statement on the suit targeting him and the Orleans Parish...
Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin issued a statement on the suit targeting him and the Orleans Parish registrar over names on the active voter list.(Source: WVUE)

And A.G. Landry’s office said, “Pursuant to La. R.S. 18:64, the Attorney General’s Office has authorized the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters to hire private counsel in this matter. We have no further comment on this pending litigation,” an email from the AG’s office said.

Carter said they are also prepared for legal challenges targeting the recall campaign.

A court hearing is set for February 27.

“It’s somewhat late in the process although maybe they’re going to allege that they did not learn about these problems until late but it’s an important issue, I’ll tell you that,” said Raspanti.

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