Lawmaker, voting rights group slam settlement to lower Cantrell recall threshold
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A voting rights group said lawsuits should be expected in the wake of a closed-door deal between a state elections official and organizers of the effort to recall New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, which lowered the threshold of signatures required for the recall to advance.
The agreement was struck in Orleans Parish court on Wednesday (Feb. 1), and while details were still scarce the Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office said no voters would be declared inactive or removed from the rolls in the process.
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.
Organizers of the recall effort had originally filed suit against the local Orleans Registrar of Voters and Ardoin’s office, alleging a data company they hired found around 30,000 people on the voting rolls in Orleans Parish had either died or moved out of New Orleans.
“Any time that we are questioning voter status for the purposes of political expediency is a problem,” said Ashley Shelton, President and CEO of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, which she said targets and empowers infrequent minority voters.
“A recall was filed. In order to meet the prerequisites of that recall, you have to meet the demands of 20 percent, and it’s 20 percent of what the rolls were at that time,” Shelton said.
Meanwhile, State Representative Mandie Landry (D-New Orleans) said the arbitrary nature of the number agreed upon by both parties is cause for concern.
“As a lawyer this is killing me that they’re just picking something that is supposed to be a factual issue. I’m glad that they’re not pulling anyone off today, but I think that’s a concern for the future,” Landry said. “The fact that this court and maybe future courts might allow parties to go around the law suggests that they’re going to go one step further next time.”
Shelton agreed, saying a lawsuit is certain to come sooner rather than later.
“We certainly are in several conversations, and I think there will be a lawsuit that does come from these arguments,” she said.
Landry said she also has been in conversations with other state lawmakers, and that the move may call for some form of state legislative oversight.
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