Removing voter names is more challenging than it seems, according to election attorney

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:12 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A veteran attorney specializing in election law says if qualified electors are being stricken from New Orleans voting rolls, attorneys are entering uncharted waters.

Scott Bickford says recall thresholds are based on the number of ‘qualified electors’ in any given parish, and he says history has shown they are tough to meet.

Bickford is a veteran of Louisiana election challenges going back 30 years and says what sources say is now taking place in the Cantrell recall lawsuit is unprecedented.

“The law states that when they filed a petition August, the Secretary of State at that time was supposed to determine the number of qualified electors,” he said.


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But people behind the recall filed suit, saying there are as many as 30,000 voters whose names should be stricken from the rolls because they are inactive, have moved, or are deceased. If that occurs, that could significantly reduce the number of signatures needed to force a recall election.

But Bickford says the law speaks to qualified electors and not active or inactive voters, and he says it’s not that easy to strike ‘Qualified electors’ from voting rolls.

“In order to have that designation changed there has to be due process. Someone has to challenge that voter individually and you have an opportunity to say no I’m not living in Jefferson Parish I’m still living at my mama’ house in the 9th ward,” Bickford said.

Though successful recalls are rare, Greg LaRose, with ‘The Louisiana Illuminator’ has documented four that have succeeded in Louisiana in the past 10 years, mostly in small towns. Port Allen was the largest city to oust its mayor, Deedy Slaughter back in 2013 with just 1700 signatures. That’s far fewer than the estimated 50,000 signatures which may be needed to force a Cantrell recall.

“In small towns, if you have a motivated electorate, they could show up in one day if they’re really serious about ousting whoever is the subject of the recall,” said LaRose.

Though the success rate for recalls is higher in smaller towns, over the past 10 years, Shreveport did attempt to remove mayor Adrian Perkins in 2021.

‘People were using rising crime as the primary issue there, it was not successful,’ said LaRose.

But shortly after that recall effort failed to get the required number of signatures, Perkins lost his reelection bid.

“Perkins wound up, finishing third in the election. That recall was the beginning of his string being unravelled,” said LaRose.

It remains to be seen what will happen in the effort to recall Mayor Cantrell

“I don’t know what the secretary of states list looks like but if the secretary of state is carrying dead people, the question is, will the law allow you to go back retrospectively to August now that you filed a lawsuit and say OK your number is wrong,” said Bickford.

Bickford says that has never been done in past recall attempts

Bickford says if voter qualifications are challenged, usually that’s done before an election occurs. He also says these issues must be settled within Louisiana’s recall law’s 20-day signature counting time frame.

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