Election officials, Cantrell recall organizers reach agreement on number of active voters in Orleans Parish
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Election officials and organizers of an effort to recall New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell have reached an agreement on the number of active voters in the parish, lowering the number of signatures needed by about 5,000 names.
The agreement was struck in Orleans Parish court on Wednesday (Feb. 1).
The details of the settlement were not immediately available, but the Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office said no voters would be declared inactive or removed from the rolls in the process.
Some observers, including Cantrell herself, have expressed concerns that the recall campaign’s legal challenge was a backdoor strategy to purge New Orleans voters from the rolls. But it appears the deal won’t change anyone’s voter status.
Instead, the secretary of state will simply lower the threshold of the number of signatures the recall petition needs in order to trigger a general recall election. John Tobler, deputy secretary of communications with the Secretary of State’s office, said the threshold will be lowered as if 25,000 people were removed from the list of active New Orleans voters.
But under the terms of the deal, which had not yet been signed by a judge as of mid-afternoon Wednesday, no one will be moved to the inactive voter list, he said.
“Not one single voter in Orleans Parish will be removed from the voter rolls pursuant to the consent judgment that was entered today in court,” NoLaToya organizers said in a statement shortly after the hearing. “The voters who will be placed on the inactive list have moved outside of Orleans Parish and have notified the US Post Office of such or have died.”
The deal and lower active voter count will only apply to the Cantrell recall petition, not future petitions or elections.
In order to trigger a recall election, petitioners have been tasked with acquiring signatures from 20% of active voters in the parish, which is now 44,975 signatures.
The number of active voters has been debated after recall organizers hired a third-party analytics firm to compare the Orleans Parish voter list with postal records, claiming over 30,000 names of people who had moved out of the parish or died remained on the list.
Recall organizers have said they delivered boxes with almost 50,000 signatures to the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters last week but no official number has so far been released.
The signatures will now need to be verified by Orleans Registrar Sandra Wilson’s office.
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In a press conference Wednesday, Mayor Cantrell dismissed the recall as a Republican-inspired effort to disenfranchise voters.
“It’s evident this recall is just not about me. It’s about the disenfranchisement of our voters, particularly black voters,” Cantrell said. “It’s something that should alarm every voter in this community. It is a matter of civil rights in my opinion.”
Cantrell criticized recall organizers for touting themselves as a “grassroots effort,” having received nearly all of their monetary donations from a single Republican New Orleans businessman, Walk-Ons owner Rick Farrell, who is a donor of former President Donald Trump.
“It’s been a distraction to voters,” Cantrell continued. “It should give all of us concern.”
The head of the recall movement, Eileen Carter, fired back at Cantrell, saying people from all political parties were involved in the effort.
“Her misinformation campaign is thinking this has anything other to do than her doing her job,” Carter said. “This is what it’s all about.”
If the petition is deemed successful, Gov. John Bel Edwards will proclaim a special election in which New Orleans voters can cast a vote to keep Cantrell in office or vote to remove her as mayor.
If Cantrell is removed from office, the New Orleans City Council would appoint one of its at-large members -- Council President J.P. Morrell or Vice President Helena Moreno -- to serve as interim mayor until a new mayor is elected in a second special election.
In that instance, the newly elected mayor -- Cantrell would not be eligible to run -- would serve out the remainder of Cantrell’s second four-year term that ends in January 2026.
If the recall election is triggered, Cantrell could have difficulty mounting her challenge against it.
As Fox 8′s Lee Zurik reported, the mayor’s latest campaign finance report showed she has just $6,700 left in her campaign’s war chest and owes her campaign manager Maggie Carroll $32,000 in salary.
The report showed Cantrell raised $144,000 for her campaign account last year, but spent more than $198,000 out of it -- including at least $72,000 (36 percent) on two image consultants.
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Michael Isaac Stein of Verite News contributed to this report.
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